Welcome to QPS’s mini screed re: the value of reading aloud to our students during school time and having them read aloud to us. Oh, and begging parents to do the same at home. Even when your kids already can read.
There’s lots out there on the benefits of reading aloud to children, even after they can read by themselves–improved engagement, empathy, and social connection among peers. We encourage you to read this blog post about reading aloud, by Alice Terwege, which draws on the wisdom of Lucy Calkins, Cynthia Rylant, and Steven Layne.
For now, we are going to take a turn at laying out our own case for reading aloud. Having given this a lot of thought, some of what we’ve hit on is so self-evident that, even without “the studies,” we are confident in our conclusions. And we hope that our passion around this topic will persuade more than just QPS’s parent body to do this important activity of sharing and educating. It will not only benefit your children but also improve your parenting skills and ultimately the parent-child relationship.
Most parents read aloud to their babies, toddlers, and early grade school children. That’s good news. Alas, as soon as a child can navigate a book independently—read or just sit with it—parents may check out, in the mistaken belief that their job is done. But we would argue that stopping these read alouds (even when your child is reading 100% independently) is a gigantic missed opportunity. And we would further argue that the age to stop is when your child tells you that they don’t want you to read to them anymore. The age for that is much older than many people think, because being read to is a very pleasant experience for children, most of whom long for physical closeness with their parents. But for the real benefits to accrue, the read-aloud relationship needs to start young and continue that way.
The real benefits of Read Aloud?
- Your child hears a grown up reading aloud, with correct syllabic emphasis and letter-sound correspondence. When people mispronounce words, it can be because they’ve seen the words in writing but have not heard them enough to know the correct way to say them.
- Improved comprehension because your child is not expending any energy on decoding words, especially words they may not be familiar with.
- Opportunities to stretch key thinking skills around character motivation, point of view, and logic of events. For young children, it’s questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” and “How would you feel in this situation?” With older children, you can ask more sophisticated questions–”Why do you think [character] did that?” (motivation) and open-questions like, “What do you think of [character] doing [whatever s/he did]?”
- A way of relating to your child in a neutral playing field. As children get older, there can be more conflict in the parent-child relationship. This is a way to guarantee some easy time together, when it just feels good. especially before bedtime, when all parties involved need to calm down and move into sleep-ready mode.
As we head toward Spring Break, please consider the time you spend reading to your child, and the quality of that time spent together.