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Why We Should Never Stop Reading Aloud to Our Kids

January 6th, 2014 by Wendy Kennar

reading aloud (photo by Paul Kennar)

Parents of young children most likely have experienced a similar situation — complete weariness at reading the same book to your child.  The same book, again.  You longed for the day your child would possess the skills necessary to read the book himself.  And the day has been here for a while.  Your child is no longer learning to read, but reading to learn.  Your child reads for homework, for research purposes, and hopefully, for enjoyment and entertainment.

However, don’t think that means your child shouldn’t be read to.  On the contrary, reading aloud to your child still has many benefits.  There have been numerous studies explaining the correlation between reading aloud and the subsequent increases in a child’s vocabulary and improvements in reading comprehension.  But without getting too academic, reading together is a way to connect; it’s shared, special moments when you are both intimately, and actively, engaged in the same experience.  Additionally, when an adult reads aloud to a child, the adult is demonstrating a number of important reading skills:  reading fluently, reading with emotion, reading with inflection, reading with appropriate pacing.

Now I know some parents will think that this sounds like a great idea but how do you implement it?  How do you take it from a great idea and make reading aloud a regular part of your family’s day?  You figure out when it could work, you choose a book, and you start.

First suggestion, bedtime.  Your child is in pajamas, everything that has to be done has been done, and you have some time to slow down, decompress, and read.  For some families, though, bedtime might not be the best time.  For these families, everyone is exhausted and just wants to crawl under the covers and escape to dreamland.  That’s when you look at your day and figure out when it will work.  Maybe you’ve got a lengthy commute to school each morning.  During the commute, your child can read to you, or you both can listen to an audio recording of the book.  Once you arrive at school, you realize that you are ten minutes early which gives you some time to read to your child.  Chapter books work well if you’re going to have to break-up your reading sessions and take turns reading.  And you can take turns — reading aloud doesn’t have to be one more thing for Mom and Dad to do.  You can alternate with your child.

You look at your days, and find the pockets of time for reading.  Maybe while one child is at soccer practice, you find a quiet bench with your other child and read.  Read aloud (quietly) in a dentist’s waiting room, while standing in line at the post office, or instead of doing the dishes right after dinner.

When I taught upper-grade, I always tried to read to my class after lunch.  It gave them a chance to settle down from the drama and activity of their lunch break.  We also always read books that had a movie version.  We’d read, discuss, make predictions, and when the book was done we’d watch the movie.  We were comparing and contrasting — how was the movie alike and different from the book version?

But reading and discussing books should also be fun, so when we watched the movie, we always snacked.  For example, when we read James and the Giant Peach, we snacked on peach-themed refreshments (peach iced tea, peach pie, diced peach cups, or gummy peach rings).  While we watched Matilda we snacked on honey graham crackers in honor of the kind-hearted Ms. Honey.

If you don’t know which book to read, ask your child for suggestions.  Go the library and ask for recommendations.  Ask your child’s teacher.  Ask your siblings which books they remember from their childhood.

Just remember, unlike diapers, bottles, and car seats, being read to isn’t something your child needs to ever outgrow.

 

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Wendy Kennar (96 Posts)

Wendy is the mother of a six-year-old son, a writer, and was a public school teacher for twelve years. She has had work published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, L.A. Parent, GreenPrints, DivineCaroline.com, United Teacher, Beyond the Diaper Bag, Lessons From My Parents, Write for Light, and The Barefoot Review. She blogs at Wendy's Weekly Words.


3 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for sharing this Wendy. I learned a lot.

  2. Reading to the kids should never go out of style.

  3. Hi Wendy,

    I am a Children’s picture book author and publisher. I found your article enlightening and apropos with my book series. Although my books are filled with pictures, the text is as relevant to both children and adults. I call them books with purpose because they are written to raise awareness to those less fortunate than ourselves, and hopefully bring about change and consideration to situations we may not talk about on a daily basis.

    My first book “A Pup’s Tale” is a story about a Border collie who was rescued (from Border collie rescue) by a family when he was six months old and what he had endured before they found each other. The story is told by the Dru, and the way he perceives the world. It is about kindness, understanding, and most importantly forever love. Though Dru deals with a pretty harsh reality of neglect and abandonment, he remains forever hopeful. As with all my books in the “Rescue Me” series, each main character is faced with challenges that they must overcome (Abandonment, homelessness, prejudice, and dealing with the loss of a loved one). The stories are written so that every reader/audience learns compassion and respect. At the end of each story are a series of questions that ask the reader to think about what they would do in similar situations, and how they can bring about change in their own lives. But what I feel to be the best part of this series is that a portion of the sales of these books will be going to the designated non-profit chosen for the particular story, so more lives can be saved.

    I hope this is something that will interest you and your readers. Please contact me and let me know. I live in Orange County and I am available for interviews, readings and book signings.

    Sincerely,
    Jaimi Wolotsky aka Ilama (acronym for I love all my animals)

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