There are tremendous benefits to reading out loud to our children.
I’ll never forget visiting my parents shortly after giving birth to my first child Claire. Claire was not even two months old, but she was sitting on my lap as I read her a series of books. You know. Classics like The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My mother skeptically asked, “Why on earth are you reading to the baby? She can’t understand anything you are saying!” In other words, what a waste of time!
But I knew intuitively, before any training or experience as a reading teacher or librarian, that nothing could be more critical for Claire’s development as a thinking, literate person than for me to read to her daily from birth. Book after book, sometimes hour after hour, we would read each and every day. And now, almost twenty five years later, Claire is a voracious reader and always has a book in her hands or on her mind.
Now I know this is just anecdotal evidence, but it is supported by many studies. A 2008 article which appeared in the peer-reviewed medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood reviewed these studies and summarized: “Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills, which in turn help children prepare for school.”*
Very young children have to learn every single skill related to reading including how to hold a book the right way, turn pages, and recognize that those squiggles on the page represent spoken language. The article stresses the importance of practicing through Read Alouds such basic but critical skills as recognizing letters, understanding that stories have a beginning, middle and end, awareness of sound patterns such as rhyme and alliteration, and recognizing the relationship between letters and sounds.
As children get older and become independent readers, the benefits of Read Alouds and Shared Reading (parent and child, or two children together, taking turns reading aloud) do not end. Through the more advanced vocabulary as well as more complex sentence and story structure of a Read Aloud written at a higher reading level, children will experience ongoing and significant improvement in their reading comprehension and word recognition.
Of course, the most important benefit of a parent reading to and with a child is the positive shared experience that reinforces parent-child bonding. But sharing a great book also provides an unparalleled opportunity for a child to understand that reading is a positive and emotionally satisfying experience. There is nothing more powerful than that for creating enthusiastic and lifelong readers.
Next time, I will fill you in on some exciting research about the most impactful way to share a Read Aloud with your child. Hint: it’s not enough just to read the words of a book.
In the meantime, be sure to visit Tomfoolery Toys and Books, as well as your local public or school library for a wonderful selection of books perfect for Read Alouds and Shared Reading, including classic and brand new titles! And follow my Twitter, @LoveTheLibrary1, for lots of book recommendations and news related to literacy as well as cultural events in the Houston area.
*”Reading aloud to children: the evidence” by Barry Zuckerman, E. Duursma, and M. Augustyn,13 May 2008, http://www.reachoutandread.org/filerepository/readingaloudtochildren_adc_july2008.pdf