Read aloud to your children from birth, advocate reading experts. Read aloud to children in the classroom and at home say educators. What could be the reason why educators and caregivers swear by reading aloud to children of all ages? It is in fact backed by proper studies and research. The simplest reason is though that we all love love being read to. Children like hearing the sound of another human narrating a book in their own special way, usually a human they love very much. There really aren’t too many other ways where a stimulating, intimate interaction that becomes the bedrock of many happy memories.
Parents are often hard pressed for time or rather reluctant to read aloud to their children. Reading aloud can be done for as less as 15 minutes daily, not much is it? The benefits of reading aloud to children especially those in 0-5 age group have been documented time and again. Older children enjoy being read aloud to, but often parents and teachers taper reading aloud once they notice the child is reading by themself.
Sandra McCormick of Ohio State University paper on ‘Should You Read Aloud to Your Children?’ published by The National Council of Teachers of English. Her answer is beyond an emphatic yes. Reading improves a child’s vocabulary and reading comprehension. It also develops the underrated skill of listening and greatly improves reading interests and language.
She further adds, based on her studies with disadvantaged children from grade 1 through 6, reading aloud to children on a regular basis led to increase in quantity of vocabulary growth, knowledge of word meanings, visual decoding, motor encoding and reading comprehension. One of the first steps of reading is sight word recognition. The brain then retrieves the corresponding meaning of the word, which is in fact a symbol. Children with reading difficulties struggle at this very first stage. Reading aloud helps children match sounds to their corresponding words easier -that is they visually decode easier.
Simply by reading aloud to children everyday, even for a small time frame of 15-20 minutes has compounded results. The important thing is to do it consistently and continuously. Younger children greatly benefit from being read aloud too. Parents who read aloud to their children for about 15-20 minutes per day, are helping their children scale newer vocabulary and comprehension walls. This time can be spent discussing meanings of new words, instances associated with them and snuggle with them even. The act of reading aloud to a child becomes intimate, bond strengthening moments too.
Read alouds allow children enjoy stories and reading material without the stress of reading themselves. With continued read alouds, children become confident to read themselves and start exploring new reading material.
Introduce a Varied Reading Diet
Humans have enjoyed listening to stories that have passed generation to generation orally. Children who are the beneficiaries of read alouds pick up intonations and language syntax more easily than those who don’t. A child who is navigating reading new words by herself is unlikely to catch the correct pronunciation. Read alouds help children match words in text with their corresponding sounds more easily. The combination of hearing books read and reading books themselves is very powerful in developing the linguistic abilities of children.
Parents share their love of reading by reading books to their children. They often pick up books that they themselves may have enjoyed as children. When they read aloud they pass this pleasure to their offspring. Chomsky who McCormick cites, states:
The mother who recalls certain books with pleasure from her own childhood may well transmit her own enjoyment to her child very early on when she reads to him. We may speculate that this child learns to assign a special role to reading, for what his mother enjoys doing with him, he quite naturally comes to enjoy as a valued activity.
Less Screen Time, More Brain Flex
Adults benefit by reading aloud because it gives them a chance to interact face to face with children and is a digital detox. Children learn to enjoy these interactions and more likely to turn to reading, even on a reader as they grow older.
Strengthens the Empathy and Logic Muscle
Read alouds that include different sorts of books allow children to see things from different perspectives. Listening to a story about a refugee or an orphan or a child who is disfigured opens the mind of children to other worlds. They start to think, question, feel and reason even as they listen.
If reading aloud is done regularly the child returns handsomely by demonstrating critical thinking skills, creativity and using stories to build themselves up. Read alouds often become the door to discussions which may include events at school or the world around us. Reading aloud, specially to smaller children helps them build their visual vocabulary as well, as they enjoy the pictures as much as they do the words. It gives the child an environment of familiarity and understanding around learning. It also helps build a strong bond with stories and the storyteller as they go onwards.
Rebecca Bellingham is a teacher, literacy consultant, college instructor, and performer puts across the importance of reading aloud to children are.