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Reading Aloud is a Win-Win

Most of us know how important reading aloud is, but what’s surprising is how many parents just don’t do it. Perhaps most parents assume teachers at school will read aloud in class and that will be enough. However, after reading The Read Aloud Handbook by read aloud expert Jim Trelease, I realized how important it is to read aloud as much as possible. Trelease offers personal stories and advice that I found extremely insightful. His perspective on reading aloud shows how easy it is to do and the significant impact it has on children. In fact, there’s an entire day (February 1st) dedicated annually to reading aloud.

Girl and boy reading amongst colorful pile of books.

Reading for Pleasure

One of the most meaningful gifts you can give a child is to nurture a love of reading for pleasure. Even pediatricians prescribe books. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found, “ evidence that book-sharing in early childhood may promote brain development supporting reading readiness.” In fact, it starts simply with having books around for easy access at home and in the classroom.

It makes sense that children who have more accessibility to books, are more likely to utilize books for entertainment. The more a child reads, the more likely he/she will enjoy reading, thus improving reading proficiency and core reading skills (minus the worksheets and comprehension quizzes).

In my research, I found that most people describe the origins of their love for books similarly: it transports them to another world. We need to make sure that books are in the hands of children, not for the purpose of gathering data or improving standardized test scores, but for sheer enjoyment. Not only will their love of reading evolve naturally, so will their proficiency in basic language skills like speaking, reading, and writing. In addition, books feed into children’s imagination and creativity, enriching their world view.

Reading at Home

Although it’s common for teachers to read out loud at school, can you really read enough? August House CEO, Steve Floyd, recalls reading to his young sons everyday when he got home from work, “I was fortunate to spend this very special time reading to my boys, but little did I know that I was also helping them activate their brains or that they were practicing pre-language skills that would prove so valuable later as they learned to read.”

It might seem like a chore to read to your child everyday, especially after work, preparing dinner, cleaning up, etc., but reading aloud benefits both you and your child. Consider reading aloud a chance to unwind and bond with your children, all while mentally stimulating cognitive skills and improving their language skills (sounds like a win-win).

Girl reading a red book.

Trelease explains the simplicity of reading aloud, “You don’t need a degree or forty hours of free time to effectively discuss a book with your child.” You also “don’t need 200 books in your home library to make an impact on children.” One book can actually have a life-long impact on a child. I still think back fondly on my childhood favorites like Eloise or Ramona and Beezus.

Reading aloud is something everyone can do with their children. It only takes a couple minutes, and you don’t have to break the bank buying every trending or award-winning book as soon as they're released. Remember, children’s books are “evergreen,” and I’ve found amazing books of great quality at the Goodwill store. Or, make a weekly field trip by visiting your closest library branch.

Challenging Children

Books are just the first step in developing a child’s mind. As children get older, it’s important to expose them to different genres and formats of reading. Trelease recommends incorporating series into their reading list. Young readers will build strong relationships with the characters (think: Harry Potter, Curious George or Magic Treehouse). Series lend themselves to encourage reading and moving on to the next adventure. With each book, readers are enticed to continue reading.

Flowers on vine.

Not only does reading aloud improve comprehension and literacy, it also offers families an inexpensive way to take a mental vacation from the stress of daily routine or a healthy escape from dealing with problems.

Even Jim Trelease relates the way that reading aloud helped him combat his hyperactivity as a child. As parents, older siblings, friends and relatives, it is our responsibility to give children the basic tools they need to succeed in life. As Trelease concludes, “Giving phonics lessons to kids who don’t have any print in their lives is like giving an oar to a person who doesn’t have a boat - they won’t get very far.”


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