The Benefits of Reading Aloud

In this post, our 3/4 grade teacher, Mrs. Roberts, discusses the benefits that come from parents reading aloud with their children. 

Why is reading aloud the type of activity that parents seem to avoid? Is it the time it takes, time away from chores that endlessly call to parents? Is it because a parent may not be a strong reader? Or can it be that parents and teachers do not realize the impact reading aloud has on children?

Approximately 75% of parents read to infants, a number that has been increasing in recent years. However, there is a drop in the number of parents reading to school age children. In Scholastic’s “Kids and Family Report,” only 17% of parents of children ages 9-11 read aloud to their children, yet 83% of children ages 6-17 claim to enjoy it.

Most people think of family bonding time as an important benefit that comes from reading aloud, however, there are plenty of academic benefits as well. One purpose of literature is to experience situations that would be otherwise inaccessible to us. Reading aloud takes a child to a level of greater engagement than reading on his or her own. A child’s auditory comprehension is higher than his reading ability up to about 8th grade. Through conversation about the book and the book’s own content, a child can learn empathy, courage, and kindness not available in simple readers.

Also, in this day of electronic screens and constant distraction, reading aloud can train the attention span. Starting small and building to longer sessions will help children to enjoy sitting still and focusing on the reader’s voice. Having and reading books in the home will decrease screen time, especially when children see parents modeling reading for them. Since a child cannot set his own boundaries, parents should consider regulating electronics for the sake of other hobbies.

Reading aloud does take some time and effort. Books in the house will encourage a child to read; reading those books aloud will train him to keep reading. Turning off the TV and computer, grabbing a good story, and gathering your children will make a good starting place. Simply pick a good book, and begin reading. Read with emotion, change voices with characters, and use inflection. This will teach the child how to be a better reader. Discussing social or individual issues helps a read-aloud come alive. Ask questions such as, “Do you see yourself in this character at all?” “How would you do things differently?” “Is this reminding you of anything happening in our current life/era?”

If you have an especially fidgety child, try letting them knit or crochet, build a quiet craft, or draw quietly. Keeping hands busy helps the mind to focus. By starting with small sessions and increasing slowly over several weeks, a child will find delight in books for longer and longer periods of time. A chapter can even be broken up into several sessions throughout a day. For even more fun, create an inviting environment by snuggling under blankets by a fire, popping popcorn, making tea and cookies, or sitting under a shady tree.

Take the time to read aloud to your children today. Try something new or regenerate an old love. A few suggestions are In His Steps, Watership Down, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or The Wizard of Oz.

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