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.