Do you read aloud in your classroom? If you do, chances are you know many of the benefits. If you don’t, maybe hearing the benefits will convince you to do so.
Whenever mamas new to homeschooling write me asking how to get started, one of the first things I tell them is to read aloud with their littles every day. Even many public school teachers do it. Why? It is one of the best things you can do for a child. It is a class in and of itself, and your littles are learning much more than you think. They are not just being entertained. It is not just a waste of time. And it’s not just for elementary-aged kids.
Benefits of Reading Aloud
Reading aloud benefits children of all ages, even high schoolers. It can even benefit you, the teacher, in ways you may not have considered. Here’s why.
- Bringing you closer. Reading aloud together every day gives you a time to enjoy being together, sharing the fun, excitement, and adventure of a good story. It helps you get to know each other–do the same things make you laugh? Do you cry in the sad parts? Do ghosts make you cringe? You can learn a lot about your littles and they can learn a lot about you by sharing a story.
- Vocabulary improvement. I’ve said this maybe a million times. When you read aloud together, you, the teacher, get to see firsthand if there are any words your little struggles with. Your little gets to say, “Hey, what’s that mean?” I’m not going to lie to you, there have been times when we’ve been in the middle of a chapter and I’ve stopped and said, “Wait. I’ve never seen that word before.” Doesn’t happen often. But it happens, even to those of us who think we have this English language thing down. I’ll never forget discovering the word deliquesce for the first time. Last year. Such a delicious word, and I had never heard it before. It is (seriously) now part of our daily language. Because it rocks. Reading aloud did that.
- Increases attention span. When someone is reading aloud in the classroom, everyone else has to stay quiet and listen or they miss the story. And, Come On, No One wants to miss the story. When I was in a public school classroom, reading aloud even quieted 30 kids. I remember a 4th grade class that was the noisiest class I’d ever had. I started reading from a Gary Paulsen chapter book and you could have heard a pin drop. When I tried to put the book down after 1 chapter, they begged me to keep going. Can you ask for a better response? Here at home, where (thank God) there are just 2 kids, I can literally feel them getting swept away by a story. They pay attention. For as long as I want. It’s good practice for those college lectures they have to look forward to.
- Helps them understand more complicated plots. You can read The Secret Garden to a 4 year old and she will grasp it, even though she can’t read it herself. Listening skills develop much more quickly than reading skills. If you see me recommending a book and think, “Ah, KT, my littles aren’t old enough for that,” you are wrong. Read that book aloud to them. It makes all the difference. It sets them up to be able to understand complicated plots when they start reading them for themselves. It improves their ‘reading level’ (I have to say it again: Whatever That Is).
- Allows you to tackle difficult topics together. When you read aloud together, you are available to discuss what’s happening as it’s happening. It helps kids learn how to handle crises, and gives you the opportunity to add your own family values to the subject. It allows your children to develop awareness of and empathy for people outside their daily lives. Maybe you live in a community that doesn’t include anyone of Middle Eastern descent. Reading The Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher can introduce them to the history of Persia and start to open their minds to acceptance and tolerance. Win.
- Ensures not all reading is tied to work. This is especially important for high schoolers. When you read aloud together, taking time to simply enjoy the story, you are engendering a love of reading in your littles. As the grow older, they need to be reminded why they loved reading when they were little. One year the Littles and I read Watership Down over the summer. Big was home from college on break. He sat down every day and listened to the chapter with us, without encouragement or invitation. He Could Not Help Himself! He was so interested in the story that, at 19 years old, he had to be there to hear it. I am soooo glad he never saw my self-satisfied smirk. Or if he did, he chose to ignore it.
- Cultivates internal listening skills. Studies have shown that littles remember things they hear better than things they see on a screen. In this highly digitized world we live in, reading aloud teaches our littles not to be so easily distracted. Listening to–or reading aloud themselves–a chapter every day creates good listeners. And yeah, that is going to help them in college, but think what it will do for their friends and spouses!
- Improves diction, grammar, and expression. Just hearing dialogue read right, or reading it aloud themselves, is going to help your littles express themselves better. It helps them learn proper pronunciation. It helps with their grammar skills, causing them to focus on punctuation in order to read the story well. Even listening helps with this. They hear where commas go, how periods and questions and exclamation points work… you get it. Spelling skills also benefit from reading aloud. Sounding out words, detecting syllables, visually connecting with the words in order to get them right–all that translates into better spelling. All these benefits translate to your child’s reading skills and writing voice. One of the first things creative writing teachers tell their students is Read, Read, Read–especially in the genre you want to write. I say Read Aloud. You get more advantage points.
- Teaches patience. Remember what I said about that 4th grade class? Reading aloud allows your child to quiet his mind. It sharpens his focus. All his energy is put into either listening to or saying the story right. He learns to be calm, to pay attention, to be patient with the reader or himself. He learns the peace of reading a good book. Oh. Yeah.
- Practice for public speaking. I’ve said this before, too. When you have your child do the reading, you are getting her used to being the center of attention. It becomes so ingrained that she never learns to feel self-conscious about it. Maybe when she grows up she’ll have to head meetings, speak before Congress, or lead seminars. Reading aloud while she’s young puts her ahead of the game. She already knows what it’s like to speak in front of others. She’ll have nothing to fear.
I could probably think of more advantages to reading aloud, but I’m worried about your attention span. Plus, you’re a mama or a dada, and you have a ton of things to do today and, I dunno, this screen is probably distracting you.
Do you read aloud with your littles? What kinds of books do you read and how do you see the benefits?