Reading aloud to your children is so important. I cannot stress that enough. It may be one of the most important things you do for them, educationally speaking. Most parents can find the time to read a picture book or two with their infants and toddlers, but once a child learns to read, that snuggly read aloud time usually ends. But, I think it’s actually more important to continue that read aloud time, well into their school years.
But my child is fully capable of reading their own books. Why should I read aloud to him?
There are a number of reasons, but I’ll list my top 5 (plus one):
5. Reading aloud creates a family bond, especially if there are siblings listening as well. Your children will fondly look back on their memories of listening to you read aloud, giggle over how you did “all the voices,” and fondly recall favorites stories heard at your knee. Just because a book is considered “children’s” literature, doesn’t mean it’s childish. Many of my favorite books are written for children! A good story is a good story, and you will find that you enjoy many great books just as much (if not more!) than you children. Some of my favorite memories are of reading aloud to my children. I just finished reading aloud The Hobbit with my twins, and my oldest daughter kept trying to listen in as she did her school work in the other room. I read it aloud to her a few years ago, and it is still one of her all time favorite stories. I can’t wait until my youngest is old enough so I can help her discover Middle Earth and all of it’s charms.
4. Reading aloud will help to stimulate their imagination. When you read aloud, you don’t have to choose books at any particular reading level. So while you daughter is just getting comfortable with easy chapter books, you can read aloud books far above her level. You can expose them to fantasy worlds full of talking animals, knights and battles, distant countries…the literary world is open to you! Literature is peopled with characters that your children will want to emulate and filled with places they’ll want to pretend. Poetry will fill their minds with beautiful language and spark their own creativity with words and stories.
3. Literature will expose them to difficult ideas and situations in a safe way. Life is full of hard truths, and what better way to learn of them than from a beautifully written story read to them by someone they love and trust? Charlotte’s Web shows that sometimes, a beloved friend dies, not from any terrible illness or violent act, but simply because it’s part of life. Literature will also build empathy – they’ll put themselves in the characters place, wondering how they would react in the same situation.
2. Reading aloud to your children can increase their vocabulary. Again, because you aren’t limited to choosing books within their reading level, you can expose them to a world of beautiful language. This will also help build their thinking skills – rather than interrupt the story to ask about a particular word, they’ll be more apt to use context clues to try and figure it out themselves.
1. Reading to your children, daily, starting when they are very young, will build their attention span. A child who’s been read to his whole life will be able to concentrate and pay attention to something for far longer than a child who spends all of his time playing video games or watching television.
But most importantly – reading to your children will give them a love of literature. I mourn for the children who grow up thinking Winnie the Pooh is just a brightly colored cartoon character and never get to meet Charlotte and Wilbur, Sara Crewe, Charlie Bucket and Tom Sawyer. Reading aloud will give them a respect for the written word, introduce them to the wide world and the great conversation and build their cultural literacy. It will give them a legacy of great literature to pass on to their own children.