Getting the most out of reading with your child
Reading stories allows you and your child to share a jointly constructed world. Although the author has written the words, and often an illustrator has provided more clues, the role of the reader is to make the characters live.
As you share the book with your child, and talk about events and characters, the story starts to come alive.
Draw on all your acting skills as you read, using different voices and reading speeds for different parts of the text. Ham it up. Make it dramatic. Your child isn't a drama critic. They will enjoy your performance and derive much more pleasure from the story.
Talking about the story
Discussing what's going on should be just that: a discussion - not an interrogation - as you're not trying to test your child's comprehension, but to develop it.
True understanding of any book comes from a discussion as equals, as readers, based on 'Why do you think...?' 'Do you think he really...?' and 'I wonder why...' Share your ideas and talk about the 'evidence' you used from the text to come to your conclusions.
These discussions around the text develop children as readers: they learn that the reader's role is not a passive decoding of the symbols on the page but an active search for meaning.
Children from as young as two or three years old can enjoy these discussions.
In the beginning, you'll be talking largely to yourself and finding your 'evidence' in the pictures: "Look at his grumpy face. I wonder what made him feel so grumpy?" "Oh look, the other dog's in his basket!" Even the youngest children will soon start joining in and pointing out things in the pictures.
By the time your child is aged around seven or eight you'll be reading shorter chapter books to them. They will be so used to looking and listening for meaning they'll often start the discussion. It can be odd to hear your 'discussion starters' coming from your child's mouth, but as soon as you hear the words you'll know that you have helped to make your child into a reader.