The Power of Reading Aloud

What if you spent the first day of school doing nothing but reading aloud to your students? This was a question posed to me by one of my principals early in my teaching career. It was a very interesting thought to ponder, especially to a young, fresh out of college teacher. I often think about that question at the beginning of every school year, spending a whole day reading aloud! What would it be like, how would my students react, would spending an entire day reading aloud to students be a day of instruction well spent? I have never actually done this with one class of students, but on the first day of school this year Marianne and I decided that we would read to every class of students in K-5. I have to tell you that it was by far one of my favorite ways to spend the first day of school!  I believe that one of the best ways to connect with students is by sharing a common experience through a story. We as adults help children fall in love with reading when they see us enjoying reading.  We want students to have positive experiences with books and see that everyone in our school values reading and that we are a true community of readers.  Children look to us (the adults in their lives) to be lead readers.

Parents often ask me, “what can I do to help my child learn to read or be a better reader?” My answer is always,“read aloud to him/her!” Author, Mem Fox, states in her book, Reading Magic, “If parents understood the huge educational benefit and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent and every adult caring for a child read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.”

Why read aloud? Research points to these reasons as to why reading aloud is so important.

  • Brain Development – Babies are born learning. From birth to age three are critical years for the development of language skills that are foundational for future learning success. Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher.
  • Language – The number of words that a child knows when he or she enters kindergarten is the most important predictor of a child’s success or failure. Reading aloud grows your child’s vocabulary and introduces many words and concepts that you might not use in everyday conversation.
  • Literacy Skills – Vocabulary, phonics, familiarity with printed word, storytelling, comprehension. Reading aloud is invaluable for building literacy skills.
  • Bonding – Is there anything better than sharing a good book with a child in your lap?
  • Love of Reading – Parents that read aloud demonstrate that reading is important, that reading is pleasurable, that reading is valued.
  • Knowledge – Books are a pleasure, yes, and they are also informative. You and your child can learn something new when you read aloud.

Very often I hear parents say, “I don’t read aloud to my child anymore because he/she can read on his/her own.” Nothing makes me sadder than to hear this comment. Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, says this about reading aloud to older students…

“We should consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade. The power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves. Students might interject questions, comfortably wading into complicated or difficult subjects because they are happening to the characters in the story, and not to themselves. When you talk about a book together it’s not a lecture, it’s more like a coach looking at a film with his players, going over the plays to find out what went right and what went wrong.”

As one of the “lead readers” in the life of a child, I challenge you this school year and going forward to commit to reading to your child daily. I promise you the 15-20 minutes you take out of your busy lives to stop what you are doing, cuddle up with a good book and read will not only benefit your child, but in turn will be worth it’s weight in gold to you as a parent. I wish you all a year filled with reading happiness!

Leslie and Marianne

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