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Strategies for Reading Aloud to an Active Child

Reading aloud to children, even active ones, is an important part of their development and a special bonding time between parent and child. However, keeping an energetic child engaged during storytime can be a challenge. With some planning and creativity, you can make reading aloud a fun, educational, and memorable experience for your active child.

Choose the Right Books:

Start by choosing books and stories that will appeal to your child’s interests and learning level. Good books for active children have:

  • Engaging stories with appealing characters and humorous situations that will spark their imagination
  • Rhyming, repetitive phrases or refrains that children can repeat or chant along with
  • Colorful and lively pictures on each page to hold their interest if they start to wiggle
  • Short chapters and frequent page turns to give their eyes and hands something new to explore
  • The librarian can be a great resource for suggesting read-aloud books for a child’s interests, developmental stage, and activity level. Books featuring physical activity, vehicles, animals, funny mishaps, and even mischief can be ideal for keeping active children tuned in.

Make it Interactive:

An effective and engaging read-aloud feels more like a conversation than a lecture. Ask your child questions as you read, letting them fill in the blanks in familiar refrain lines. Assign character voices to let them help act out the story. Define new vocabulary words in kid-friendly language and have them use the new word in a sentence. Tracking story events with their own illustrations is also an interactive way to hold their attention while they listen.

It’s perfectly fine to diverge from the written story to explore your child’s questions or relate it to their own experiences. The goal is to keep them interested and intellectually active, not finish the story in record time.

Use Reading Props:

Introduce reading props related to the book so your child has something visual and tactile to focus their attention on during the story. For example, with a book about different types of transportation, gather toy versions of vehicles mentioned. Have your child move the props around a map or floor mat as you encounter those vehicles in the story. For a book about a child with a new baby sibling, hold a doll for them to rock gently as the parents care for the baby. Even simple props like stuffed animals featured in the book will capture an active child’s interest and imagination throughout the reading.

Provide Movement Breaks:

Expecting a high-energy child to sit still for an entire book is likely unrealistic. Provide regular movement and wiggle break opportunities in the read-aloud routine to sustain their interest. Simple stretches, head, arm, or leg wiggles, or even marching or dancing in place lets them move their bodies before settling back in to focus again. Asking questions like “How do you think she felt when that happened?” and encouraging kids to act it out with facial expressions and body language also gives brief physical activity breaks.

Read Aloud Routine Ideas:

Establishing a consistent read-aloud routine primes an active child for storytime success. The schedule read-aloud for after energetic playtime while kids are winding down or during cozy wake-up cuddles in the morning. Reading to active kids right before bed rarely works well. Other read-aloud tips include:

  • Set up a special storytime reading nook with comfortable pillows, soft lighting, and favorite stuffed animals
  • Play soft background music before and during the story
  • Keep favorite fidget toys like stress balls or modeling clay nearby
  • Let kids color or draw while listening to the second half of longer stories
  • Encourage kids to act silly during wiggle breaks, then take deep “story breaths” to settle back in
  • With patience and the right techniques, the distractible child who starts storytime flipping through pages at random can become an engaged, interactive reading companion.

Reading Tips by Age:

The read-aloud techniques that best hold an active toddler’s attention will be different from those that work for a kindergartener or second grader. Here are some age-specific reading-aloud strategies:

Toddlers (Ages 1-3 years):

  • Board books and stories with one line of text per page work best
  • Point out and name pictures on each page
  • Read with dramatic excitement, singing refrains
  • Incorporate movement, stomping feet or clapping hands
  • Accept extreme wiggling and short attention spans
  • Engage senses with touch-and-feel pages or crinkle paper
  • Try reading while the child plays independently nearby

Preschoolers (Ages 3-5 years):

  • Take turns telling the story—“You read this page; I’ll read the next.”
  • Use props that bring the book to life
  • Ask “What happens next?” questions before turning pages
  • Assign character roles and voices
  • Use a puppet or finger pointer to track the print
  • Take interest-based tangents before guiding back to the book
  • Accept some silly antics before redirecting attention

Early Grade School (Ages 6-8 years):

  • Let child turn the pages at their own pace
  • Pause for predictions about what will happen in the story
  • Check comprehension with open-ended questions
  • Take turns reading pages or paragraphs aloud
  • Act out exciting scenes or pictures
  • Define new vocabulary words encountered
  • Doodle favorite characters, props, or scenes on scrap paper while listening

Physically active children have much to gain from developing a love of books through positive read-aloud experiences. When you make storytime participatory and fun, they often surprise us with how long they’ll engage. With the right books and techniques for their age, reading aloud can not only calm their energetic bodies but also energize their growing minds.

The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Active Children:

In today’s digital age of flashy videos, video games, and mobile devices vying for children’s attention, parents may question whether reading aloud retains its importance. Yet, reading aloud has significant benefits that screen time cannot replicate. When read-alouds feel like a conversation, not a chore, they help even energetic children develop longer attention spans, broader vocabularies, and stronger analytical skills.

Reading aloud to active children:

  1. Enhances Focus and Listening Skills:
  2. Listening intently to a parent read aloud an engaging story or discussing its intriguing illustrations trains children to sustain focus and attention. This is a crucial skill that will later help them fully grasp and retain classroom lessons at school.

  3. Grows Their Vocabularies:
  4. Children learn the meanings of far more advanced words through descriptive read-aloud storytelling than they would simply talk or watch screens. Expanding vocabularies sparks cognitive development, builds comprehension, and correlates with higher academic achievement throughout their school years.

  5. Fuels Their Imaginations:
  6. Unlike movies that spoon-feed visual imagery, reading aloud leaves more to the imagination, encouraging kids to envision characters, scenes, and concepts in their mind’s eye. Exercising their imaginative muscles in this way promotes creative problem-solving and idea-generation abilities.

  7. Strengthens Bonding Connections:
  8. Reading aloud cannot be replicated by solitary screen swiping. Curled up together with a good book creates lasting connections and rituals that children will fondly remember. Reading aloud often sparks conversations, laughter, and insights you would not share over idle small talk.

  9. Supports Emotional Development:
  10. As children learn to empathize with characters, discuss why they act as they do, and evaluate their decisions, they develop greater self and social awareness. Book characters help children emotionally rehearse real-world scenarios they may encounter.

While hyperactive tendencies can create read-aloud challenges, the rewards for kids who regularly reap these 5 benefits are lifelong and profound. Helping active young minds associate books with playful interaction rather than stuffy lectures is a gift that will keep giving for years to come. Not only can reading aloud calm squirmy bodies, but its consistent practice has the power to reshape children’s brain circuitry for enhanced focus, language, imagination, and emotional intelligence.

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