Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reading Aloud - The "Secret" to Reading Success

  I am a passionate believer in the necessity and power of reading aloud to children. One of my earliest memories of my mother is of sitting snuggled into her arm as she read aloud to me before bed. I was three years old. My mother read aloud to me until I was 14 years old. Too old, you say? NEVER, I say.

  Reading aloud is, in my experience, the most important way to ensure a child's reading success. 

Reading stories aloud from an early age exposes children to the rhythm and cadence of purposeful, deliberate, spoken language - to the magical flow of language. It exposes them to a vocabulary and way of using words that they might not hear in their everyday verbal interactions. 
  Reading aloud makes them excited about books and stories. For this reason, reading aloud is one of -if not the best way to help a struggling reader.
  You can always spot a child who has not been read to. They read with no expression, in a choppy manner, showing no understanding of how the sentences they are reading should sound. They have no comprehension of the flow of language. To children who have never been read to, the words on the page are just that: words, to be struggled through. And I'm not talking here of just-beginning-to-read children. Children who are just beginning to read on their own will sound wooden until they get to be more proficient, then the exposure to the flow of the words will kick in - if they've had that exposure in the form of being read aloud to.

  Generally, as our children age and life gets busier, reading aloud stops. For some families it stops as soon as the child learns to read aloud themselves. What a tragedy! There are wonderful benefits from reading aloud into the teen years.

  Reading aloud can expose children to stories that are too advanced for their reading level, stories that would be too discouraging to try on their own. 

My mother started reading The Lord of the Rings series to me when I was nine. And I loved it. It led me to turn right around and read it for myself once we were done. Before that, the size of the books and the complexity of language seemed too beyond me. But reading them aloud changed my perception of "too difficult".

  Reading stories out loud that have tougher emotional issues lets you control their exposure to those issues in a safe environment. 

It gives them the "experience" without the negative consequences, and can serve as a memory when faced with real-life situations. The story can prompt some great discussions that would be too awkward to bring up under normal circumstances.

  Reading aloud can expose your kids to book options that they would normally never consider. 

I'm thinking here of my own experience with not wanting to read "boy" books, until I was read some great stories aloud. Likewise, boys exposed to "girl" stories from a young age might not turn their noses up later in life at books with girl protagonists. (No guarantees!)
  In our case, I feel it's important to read books with male protagonists because my girls don't have brothers. So it helps give them the experience of the young male perspective that they're not getting in real life.
  This also helps with subject matter that you know they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole on their own (e.g. historical fiction), but they'll accept it readily if it's read aloud, and probably end up seeking out other books on the subject. Or not. But at least you know they've been exposed to it.

  Reading aloud creates warm and wonderful memories, and can increase the power of corresponding experiences. 

Those of you who have been read aloud to can utter a hearty amen to this.  

  Reading aloud to your pre-teen and teen can help you all slow down and connect again, even for a brief time, over a shared experience. 

And what parent can't use more bonding time with their teen? If you haven't been doing it, it may feel odd at first, but trust me, despite any awkwardness or indifference they may display, secretly they will like it.

  And last but not least - 

Reading aloud lets you share your love of books with your children.

  Can you think of other benefits of reading aloud that I haven't mentioned? I'd love to hear your experiences with reading aloud.


  1. Awesome post! I agree with it all! I do sometimes still read aloud to my teenager son, but the problem is... he often falls asleep on me!

  2. This is an great post. I see children in my library everyday who struggle with reading because nobody read to them. It's a tragedy.
    Some of my favorite memories are reading aloud to all my children at different stages.

  3. This is a great post and made me think of Jim Trelease's "Read-Aloud Handbook" which also advocates continuing to read aloud to your children as they continue through childhood and early adolescence. I enjoy reading aloud to my son so much and would miss it terribly if I had to give it up.

  4. FH, you're the third person to mention his book. I really need to read it.
    It's going to be a sad day for me when my kids are too busy with their own lives to want to read aloud.