Long ago when I taught third grade in a not-so-nice neighborhood, (actually it was the former murder capitol of America), I had a lot of success with a project I called “Read a book to a little kid.” At the time, most of my third graders could not read, all of them were still learning English, and some of them had just immigrated from Mexico the prior week. (And that was for real, I’m not making a terrible joke.)
Reading aloud for these children was slow, difficult, and embarrassing. But I found that when they read to their Kindergarten buddies, their fluency and confidence improved tremendously. I created a graph, a chart, a token reward system and boom! Some of the third graders even started reading to their buddies at recess and in their own free time. It wasn’t a magic wand, but it did make a difference for the third graders, and probably for the Kindergartners too.
I’ve heard that reading to dogs, has a similar effect. (And once again, that wasn’t a bad joke!) Our public library even has a program where children read aloud to dogs. Children appreciate reading to dogs, because there is no judgement, nobody harping at them to sound out that word, and nobody telling them to be louder or softer. In some ways, it’s the ideal way to practice read aloud.
To be fair, younger children often have to been in the right mood to go along with this program, and some little listeners, will not be suitable at all. “Read it louder! Read it faster! I want Mommy!” But if you have multiple kids at home, or a family pet, this is definitely worth a try on a regular basis.