Reading aloud to children is a wonderful bonding and learning experience, and in many homes it is commonplace. Many parents can remember re-reading the same book over and over night after night to their eager toddlers. Then we move on to more complicated picture books and early novels, and then our children learn to read on their own.
That’s when the reading aloud ritual tends to taper off, but there’s reason to believe it shouldn’t.
Bedtime Stories Aren’t Just for Babies.
A report from Scholastic referred to on Read Brightly revealed that just 17 percent of parents were reading aloud to children between the ages of nine and 11. However, when polled, 83 percent of children between the ages of six and 17 said they enjoyed being read to.
Similarly, around 60 percent of children in fourth through sixth grade said they were not read to at home in a study on home reading habits conducted in Australia by Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education at Murdoch University. Her research found that more than one-third of these children wished their parents would continue reading to them.
“Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary. They are also valued as a shared social opportunity between parents and their children to foster positive attitudes toward reading,” she explained on The Conversation.
Here Are Six Reasons You Should Keep Reading Aloud to Children Even After They Learn to Read:
Reading aloud to kids allows them to hear what reading should sound like.
When children are able to listen to an experienced reader, they gain exposure to fluent reading. They hear how you pause at periods and commas, how your inflection changes when you read a question, how your voice sounds when reading an exclamation, and how you pronounce unfamiliar words.
These benefits are even recognized by children themselves. Merga quotes one child from her research saying, when his parents read aloud to him, “they were teaching me how to say more words.”
Reading aloud to children exposes them to new vocabulary.
Children can understand stories at a higher level than they are able to read themselves, so when we read aloud to children, we expose them to more advanced stories and richer vocabulary.
Again, the children in Merga’s research understand this benefit and yearn for it. One girl said, “when they did read to me when I was younger, I learnt the words; I would like to learn more words in the bigger books and know what they are so I could talk more about them.”
Reading aloud to big kids can spark conversations that help improve reading comprehension.
Kasey Short, a middle school teacher, explains in an article on Edutopia that she dedicates five minutes of each class period each day to reading aloud to her middle school students. She believes this time is not only enjoyable for her students but also helps her to demonstrate reading strategies they can use on their own.
For example, she encourages her students to visualize the text as she reads and to relate the reading passages to something from their own experience, whether another book, a current event, or a memory. She is also able to talk to her students to determine whether they understood what she read and to re-read parts of the passage when necessary.
Reading with children can increase empathy.
Empathy is not only a “nice” trait that can lead to kindness, but it is also an essential characteristic than can help your child manage relationships throughout his life—with family, friends, teammates, and eventually co-workers.
Reading can develop empathy when done right. Rather than simply reciting the words on the page, stop reading periodically to discuss the conflicts the characters are facing.
“Reading books to our kids straight through, without pause or reflection, is the same as plopping them down to watch a movie,” explained Erin Clabough, Ph.D., on Psychology Today. “We’ve been sucked in by the plot, and we’re dying to know what happens. But we’re still on the outside, watching someone else make decisions. The real magic happens inside our own heads when we try on someone else’s life.”
Have your child try to predict how a character is going to respond and what the character will do next. This practice helps develop intellectual empathy, the understanding of others’ actions and motivations, which will serve your child well in the real world when he encounters his own conflicts with others.
Reading at home with your child offers a chance for bonding.
Remember how it felt to have your toddler sitting on your lap happily looking at the pages of a picture book—and perhaps incessantly asking questions about the story and the pictures? There is no reason to give that up just because your child knows how to read words herself now.
Sitting together on the bed reading a book is a great way to end the day no matter how old you are. Reading with your older child is also a great way to spark a conversation so the two of you can continue to build your relationship and get to know each other more and more.
We all know the feeling when we ask our children about their school day, and they respond with little to no information. Read a story together though, and you’ll have some common ground to start from. Ask your child what she thinks of the story, what she would do if she were one of the characters, if she’s ever had a similar experience to what is happening in the story; and share a little something yourself too. It’s a conversation, not an interview.
Your child probably wants you to read to him.
As the research shows, many children are disappointed when their parents stop reading to them. Reading with your child is an enjoyable experience and can keep your child interested in books and reading. It is one of the best ways of encouraging kids to read.
Research on children’s interest in reading has found that in kindergarten nearly 100 percent of children are interested in reading outside of school. By fourth grade, this drops to 54 percent, and by eighth grade just 30 percent of students express an interest in reading outside of school.
Perhaps it’s not the only factor involved, but this is the age when many parents tend to stop reading aloud with their children. Keep the ritual going, and share a good book with your big kid. No one is too old for a bedtime story.