It’s been talked about for years. The “experts” have all chimed in. Statistics show that reading aloud to kids helps develop the skills necessary to read and ignites a passion for reading into the hearts of little listeners. But what about those children who are already excellent readers and have a deep-rooted love for the written word, like my daughter? She’s eight and has been an avid reader since she cracked the mystery of letters three years ago. Because she can do it all by herself, she no longer needs ME to read aloud to her…or does she?
It’s true, reading aloud to a child does help to improve his/her reading ability, but even after a child has mastered solo reading, there are numerous other benefits to sitting down TOGETHER. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Develop a Family Language
Years ago, when my husband and I were dating, I remember visiting his family and witnessing an inside, family joke. Someone was having difficulty performing a particular task to which another family member bantered, “I implore you to exert yourself.” They all had a good chuckle over the quip while I stood in silent ignorance. Unbeknownst to me, years earlier, they all had the privilege of enjoying the Beatrix Potter classic, The Tales of Peter Rabbit, together and had fond memories of the eccentric words of Peter and his friends. The language of books had captivated them. They created a family memory of words. That one common experience was marked in the minds of the entire family and has been repeated countless times since. I’m happy to report that eventually I, too, explored the misadventures of Peter with my own little ones, and now, we all get a good chuckle when someone faces a difficult task.
When faced with a readable but unfamiliar word in a text, a child has a handful of tools in his/her arsenal to deal with the problem. More often than not, he uses context clues to try to infer what the word might mean and continues to read in hopes that his “guess” was somewhat close to the actual definition of the word. It’s the easiest and quickest solution to a vocabulary deficiency. But, if YOU are reading that book aloud and come upon a word that is obviously unfamiliar to your child, you can pause the story to define it, permanently etching that word into your child’s vernacular.
Establish a World View
Just as you can claim many opportunities to enlighten vocabulary, you can also seize moments to instill a realistic world view. While having some mother-daughter time, my daughter and I were reading the American Girl Felicity series. If you are familiar with the books, you’ll know that Felicity lies to her parents in order to help a horse that is being severely mistreated by its owner. Although I could have shied away from a series whose main character does WRONG in order to do RIGHT and rationalizes her decisions because of the positive outcome, I chose to use our time together as a natural teachable moment. I used the story line as a base for imparting a correct world view and way of thinking.
Encourage Creative Play
After reading an exciting adventure story, a child should naturally be able to use that plot and character suggestions to create his/her own creative play. But sometimes, especially in the case of right-brained thinkers, creativity doesn’t just HAPPEN. Sometimes a child needs a little nudge to open the floodgates of inspiration. During an especially hot day of summer boredom a few years ago, my children came upon a lone frog and toad in an outdoor window well. I casually mentioned the connection between that discovery and the Arnold Lobel Frog and Toad series we had read together the winter before. That suggestive comment was the spark that formed an afternoon of imagination. My kids sat at the window well for hours devising stories and play scenarios with the beloved Frog and Toad as the main characters. Without that common experience of reading the books TOGETHER, those few hours of enjoyment would have been missed.
Develop the Skill of Reading Aloud
Anyone who has sat through an oral reading of Scripture knows that reading aloud is a LEARNED and PRACTICED skill. I know numerous avid readers who can not, and WILL NOT, read out loud. Why? Because the skill of reading a word and then orally interpreting that word with correct pronunciation, enunciation, inflection, and expression is MUCH DIFFERENT than just reading a word silently to yourself. By reading a book out loud to your child, you are demonstrating the proper way to INTERPRET the written word. While reading aloud to me the other day, my son read a sentence and then decided to reread it adding a bit of a sarcastic tone the second time. It changed the entire meaning of the sentence. But, he had learned from example that tone and inflection can sometimes make or break a good story.
A good quality book is meant to be enjoyed; not just for the purpose of making good readers, but for enriching lives. While reading a book, a child formulates new ideas and new opinions or himself and the world around him. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy being a part of that. I appreciate the opportunity to share an adventure, to discover the unknown, to devour well-written words…TOGETHER.
I love this! I’ve always read to my children, but this is my first year incorporating an official “Read Aloud” into my daily schedule with my four and I can’t believe I had neglected it until now! Almost immediately it became one of my favorite parts of our homeschooling day. It’s beautiful, relaxed time together and just like you said, it stirs my children’s imagination and influences their vocabulary like I never expected in the beginning. Early on I was so afraid they would be bored with books lacking pictures or they wouldn’t be able to grasp stories with more difficult language, but they beg for Read Aloud and I’ve been amazed at their comprehension when I’m able to read to them with all the feeling the author intended. I only wish I’d started it sooner!
Great points on the importance of reading aloud, Jamie. My children all love to read and I know that our read aloud times have been pivotal in that. I think vocabulary is a huge benefit, too. Not only does it help them identify new words in their reading, but it has them using a broader vocabulary when they speak, too. I checked out your blog and voted for you! Best wishes…
I also try to read OUTSIDE of my interests. We just started a book on whaling. It’s not too big a book, only 14 chapters. I’ve only read the first 2 chapters and I can already see NEW vocabulary, and a different writing style to what we are normally accustomed to.
Great post. I’ve pinned it on my pinterest homeschooling board. :o)
Great points. We love reading books together. We just finished a book yesterday evening and today my daughter was already asking to read another one together. There is something so special about snuggling and sharing books.
The development of a family language is a tremendous benefit that I think many overlook when they set their readers off to enjoy books on their own and stop reading aloud. I also see the benefits of a large vocabulary in my son (who is just beginning to read on his own) from listening to great books read aloud. It is the best part of our homeschool day, too.
I’d also add that Andrew Pudewa has a great talk on reading aloud and it’s connection to becoming great writers. Ever since I listened to that reading aloud is at the very top of our to-do list.
Yeah for reading aloud! I’m not an expert but I am a former public school teacher and educational consultant who now homeschools. I have seen the positive results of reading aloud to children and reading aloud as a family. I did an entire blog series on reading aloud because it is such an important component to a balanced reading program. http://waddleeahchaa.com/2012/02/21/why-read-alouds-are-a-key-component-to-a-balanced-reading-program-book-of-the-week-giveaway/
I’m so happy to see you promote reading aloud with older children. We read books for entertainment and also read books to enhance our learning. We read together each and every day! And Daddy reads to the children EVERY night. 🙂
Your first point, about the family language is a big thing in my house. We have so many in-jokes and references. Yet it also becomes hard in a way, because it can be seperating from others. It takes a while for the kids to realize that their friends cannot follow, and then they feel a little isolated. Not a reason to stop reading, but a reality none-the-less.
Reading aloud is one of the best activities you can do with your children. Great entertainment value + fantastic learning and bonding experience. Sure beats resorting to the TV for entertainment. Here are some more great benefits of read alouds: http://www.readingbyphonics.com/early-start/read-aloud-benefits.html
In my December edition of the Montessori e-magazine, Child of the Universe, I am going to be highlighting this particular topic of reading aloud to your children from a very early age. I found through experience that it encouraged my children to use their imaginations whilst ‘picturing’ the story that was being read to them. This stimulated them into creating their own magical world of games without having to rely on TV and other ‘state-of-the-art’ passtimes. They also wanted to read at a very young age, as I too did at the age of 5. To this day I cannot go to sleep without reading and usually have a couple of books on the go at the same time. The last book I read was in the unedited format, written by a close friend – I didnt stop reading for 36 hours, other than for a few snacks and naps. Best form of therapy, stimulation of all the senses, escapism and total indulgence is to lose yourself in a good book. We will be publishing a list of reviewed and recommended reading for parents and for their children. My launch edition of Child of the Universe can be found on http://www.childoftheuniverse.co.za. Would love your feedback.
I’m trying to convince my husband to read to our little one every night. I’m passing my hubby a link to this article. He feels our child is too young and will not get any benefit. I feel that the boding in time is well worth it. Thank you so much!
I love your list and your descriptions of each reason. I LOVE reading out loud to my children. Especially with the Summertime being so full of friends and excitement, I find that it’s nice to have some downtime to cuddle with my children and go on an adventure together.
What a wonderful post. The tip on building your vocabulary was spot on. It is wonderful to see a child come across a new word, stop, perhaps read ahead, then go back and re-read the same sentence with confidence. Thanks for posting such fantastic tips.
My son is at the age where he can almost read, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about how reading to your kid can help build their vocabulary. I’ll have to start doing this more so they can expand their word choices.