Almost all grandparents realize that their grandchildren benefit when they read to them.

However, if you want to really maximize the educational benefit of such an activity, you should READ when you read.

And just what is READ?

It is an acronym for a four-part reading strategy designed by Dr. Kim Day, the director of the Professional Learning Rollins Center for Language and Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School.

Here’s how READ works.

Repeat the Book

Especially with younger grandchildren, you should return often to periodically rereading favorite poems, tales, stories, and books. This rereading helps develop retention, memory, and recall skills in youngsters, traits that will serve them well during their school years.

In repeated readings, you should also have your grandchildren periodically read portions of text to you if they are old enough. With oral reading, you can easily discover strengths to compliment and weaknesses to help improve.

Engage to Enjoy

Here you should show young readers that reading is an active, not passive activity. There are many ways to do this. You can act out certain scenes in a story. Or you can have your grandchildren do the acting. You can point to illustrations and discuss how they enhance the words on the page.

To reinforce new vocabulary, you can work with your grandchildren to come up with synonyms or new ways to use the words in a different context than the way they were used in the original reading. With older grandchildren, you can have them come up with ideas of how the story could be turned into a video or a game.

Ask Questions

Of the 4 suggestions in READ, this is clearly the most important. You want to encourage your grandchildren to talk about all the text they read. You can vary your questioning. Sometimes, you can ask closed questions. Closed questions are queries that have a correct answer. Such questions include what time of day is it or when does the family eat lunch.

Even more importantly for critical thinking, you should ask some open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are queries that may have more than one correct answer. Here the reasoning supporting an answer is much more important that the answer itself.

As a former journalist, I know there are 6 great questioning words. They are who, what, where, when, why, and how. Here are examples of an open-ended question using these words.

Who is the most important character in this story? Why do you say that?

What do you think would have happened if the 3 bears had come home earlier? Why do you say that? Was it OK for Goldilocks to enter the house?

Where was your favorite place in the story? Why do you feel that way?

When is the best time to read? Why do you think that?

How is what Lancelot did as a knight different than the things you would do today?

In this story, Billy was a bully. Why do people bully other people? Have you ever been bullied? How did it feel? What about the other person made you want to bully him or her? Have you ever bullied someone else? Where did this happen? When, if ever, is there a time when bullying might be OK? How would be the worst way to bully someone?

Do More

In teaching, this is called using extended activities or reading beyond the lines. Closed questions usually are called reading the lines, while asking open-ended questions is a way to get youngsters thinking beyond the lines.

Here is an example of doing more. Say in a story you and your grandchild just read there was a new vocabulary word. Over the next few days, try to use that word and/or have your grandchild use that word in new contexts. Another example: If there is a video of a story you have read, watch the video with your grandchild and then discuss the differences between the written text and the video.

There is no doubt that the 21st Century is an increasingly visual time. However, the basis of all learning is still reading. No one expects you as a grandparent to have all the teaching skills of a well-trained teacher (unless you were or are a teacher). However, anyone using the READ approach will be helping their grandkids be better prepared for their school years.

And isn’t that a great gift to give them.

If you are a grandparent, there’s a good chance that you have spent time reading to your grandkids? Do have any suggestions for new grandparents who decide to read to their grandchildren? What about a favorite book that worked really well for you? Please add your comments and join the conversation.

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