Why Read Aloud?

If there’s one thing practically everybody can agree on (and there are really very few things like that), it is that reading to your kids is really, really important.  Every time I’ve taken my preschoolers to the doctor for a well-child check-up, we’ve been presented with an age-appropriate book to take home, just to make the point that reading will keep your kid from getting measles is healthy.

Of course, I grew up without being read to very much at all, and still turned out to be a literary genius (shut up), so I’m a little bit skeptical about parent-led reading’s absolute importance to a person’s future literacy. In fact, some educators and home-educators don’t even believe it matters whether you read aloud in the early years or not. See what I mean about getting everybody to agree on something?

I think it’s a good thing to do, though, and for a lot of reasons.

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Why should I read to my kids?

Help for struggling readers. A struggling reader doesn’t have to be a struggling learner! Allow the child to hear his lessons instead of just reading them, so that reading difficulties don’t hold him back in other areas. I’m also a big fan of audiobooks for auditory learners. Sometimes Mommy’s voice just needs a rest. Besides helping him get the information he needs, reading aloud to a child introduces words on a page to him in a friendly, low-pressure way that can make even struggling readers want to try harder to read for themselves.

Reading aloud takes away some of the pressure to perform. The hardest thing about learning for some kids is the fear of getting something wrong. Perfectionism is an understandable tendency, but it needs to be dealt with. After several clashes with my oldest child over his unwillingness to read aloud to me I finally asked him why. “I feel silly! I might say it wrong.” he said. I admit, until that moment, I hadn’t really done a lot of reading to him just for fun. I was more like my own parents, and didn’t read aloud much unless I had to. Why? Because I felt silly. I might say something wrong in my worst hillbilly accent. See how that works? So I swallowed my pride, and started reading to him. Now that he sees someone else tripping over words, laughing it off, and enjoying it anyway, I have very little trouble getting him to read to me.

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Read aloud so your kids will learn to feel comfortable reading and speaking in front of others.

Reading for relationship. Reading isn’t just about what’s in the book; it’s about the readers. Reading aloud will certainly convey whatever lesson or story is in the book you’ve chosen, it’s true. But it also gives you a chance to get on the same figurative, as well as literal, page with your kids. You need to be connecting with your kids every day, but sometimes there don’t seem to be very many things to say. Books can provide the fodder for conversation. Parents who get into the habit of sitting down daily with their children and sharing thoughts in the early years will find it much easier to do so when the child is older and the discussion isn’t about The Little Lame Prince. I’m told it gets harder to connect when they’re teens. Practice togetherness (sans television) now!

Reading just feels good. I heard once that research has shown that reading produces brain wave patterns similar to those that occur when falling asleep or having a massage. It is a physically relaxing activity. What a nice thing! I could link to said research, but I’m too lazy to find it. I think it would be more fun to do your own research, anyway. All you have to do is head for the bathroom the next time nature calls. Go one day with a book, and one day without. Which is easier?

Often, young adults will leave their days of reading for pleasure behind after finishing school. What better way to rediscover (or just discover for the first time) the simple pleasure of letting words on a page hold your attention? Grab up your kid (or kids) and head for the library!.