One of the most important things you can ever do for your children is read to them. Reading aloud creates a family culture of conversation and shared adventures. It builds relationships and strengthens bonds, and it challenges us to look beyond ourselves and see the world around us. Reading gives us perspective and empathy and draws us closer together as a family, creating a sense of unity and belonging.
But reading aloud also does far more than that. It helps your children grow as readers and writers.
Reading aloud builds fluency.
When we read aloud, we model reading fluency. We model intonation and prosody and effortlessly demonstrate the importance of reading with expression to bring the story and characters to life. We encircle our children with the richness of language and provide a daily example of what they should “hear” in their own minds as they read silently to themselves. Reading from a variety of texts, such as poetry, children’s books, novels, and biographies will help build your child’s fluency in both oral and silent reading.
Reading aloud builds vocabulary.
There are countless books and resources on vocabulary development. I have scoured through many of them in search of word strategies that will best build the vocabulary of children. Although there is a lot to be said about teaching word parts (affixes and roots), the most effective way I have found to build vocabulary is through reading. Children will encounter more rare words through a children’s book than a news broadcast or TV show, and the more rare words they encounter, the more their vocabulary will grow. Reading aloud will offer numerous opportunities to hear new words in context and participate in discussions on the meanings of those words in order to develop their own understanding. It truly is one of the easiest and best ways to develop vocabulary effectively.
Reading aloud builds background knowledge.
When a child lacks background knowledge, reading can often be burdensome and difficult. Even as adults, we tend to lean toward reading material that is familiar and interesting. Reading a text on an unknown topic is more of a challenge, and we need the necessary tools to know how to approach such a text. Our children need to learn those as well.
Reading aloud offers you the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics, cultures, and experiences with your children to create a “bank” of knowledge that they can then use in their independent reading journeys. When new places or topics are addressed, reading aloud allows you the opportunity to model how to research and discover new information. You can pull out a map, the globe, a YouTube video, or images on the Internet. You can create the learning experience that will ultimately teach them how to do the same when they encounter a new book or topic. The more adventures you take together, the better their connections will be and the deeper their knowledge will grow, making it that much easier for them to continue independently.
Reading aloud builds writing skills.
I have heard quite a few testimonies about students, who struggled with reading well into 4th and 5th grade, and yet blossomed shortly thereafter because someone took the time to read aloud to them. Reading aloud was a daily part of their education, and the more they listened to rich examples of literature, the greater their awareness of language and prose grew.
What many came to find was that as they developed in their reading skills, they also developed as writers. They understood rhythm and flow and were able to grow in their own unique style after having listened to many of the greatest minds that came before them. Oral reading helps children better understand and express their ideas and thoughts and grows them as writers.
Reading aloud builds critical thinking skills.
When you read aloud, you have the opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas with your children. You can pause when something is confusing or exciting and share your thoughts on the topic. You can discuss questions you have or dive deeper into topics that are introduced in the book. You can engage in meaningful discussions and engage them in critical thinking skills. Overall, spending this time together will allow them to participate in active reading and will give them the skills they need to address challenging topics in their independent reading.
Reading aloud creates a love for reading.
If a child struggles with reading and is often forced to read a daunting book alone, the joy and love of reading can be lost entirely. Instead of pushing and killing a love for reading, read aloud. Cry, laugh, and explore with them as you take new adventures together. Instead of boring worksheets, allow them to orally narrate what took place in the book. Engage in fruitful discussions and dive deeper into your understanding of books. The more you read aloud, the greater their love for reading will grow, and that love will be invincible once the rest of the skills come together.
If your child struggles with reading (and even if they don’t), I encourage you to read aloud to them regardless of their age. It’s a simple way to impact their growth and abilities in language arts and reading comprehension. Create a habit or routine of reading aloud for at least ten minutes a day. If you’d like some ideas to get you started, visit the Read Aloud Revival by Sarah MacKenzie. The site has a wealth of information with podcasts and booklists that will help you get started wherever you are in your journey.
This is day 1 of my 5-Day Hopscotch! Click here for the rest of the series: When Your Child Struggles with Reading: What YOU Can Do.