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Wednesday 1 August 2012

Guest Post: Why Reading Aloud to Kids is So Important

Everyone wants to be a good parent and do the right thing to help their kids in life. Parents have to walk that fine balance between work and home life. Juggling all those balls is tough, and especially harder if your work takes you away on business trips, or you have to work night shift, or perhaps you are a single parent. Children are not like clothes that you can assign time-saving devices to, such as using washing machines!

To be a great parent you need to invest time.

Amongst all the tasks demanded of home life, finding time to read to your children may be something you do schedule, however, this task quickly evaporates once your children start school and time pressures build up. Did you know how important the role of reading actually can be for children – in all grades and classes, including teens?

Sounds unbelievable? After all, once your kid can read, why not leave them to read books alone?

There is plenty of evidence and confirmation from experts that listening comprehension assists reading. The more a child hears new vocabulary; their skills in reading improve. Certainly a child has a higher level of understanding of the spoken word, than reading, whilst young. If you expose your five year old to five year old school vocabulary, they will never progress quickly, but will be left behind their classmates.

Consider that the only time your child reads or hears a book being read is whilst at school. They will quickly make the connection that reading is for learning, which for many equates to being boring.

If, however, they are entertained each night by listening to their parents or big brother or sister or perhaps a Grandfather reading aloud a fun book, they will associate that with a 'pleasurable moment'. It is this emotional bond between the child and the reader and the connection of applying listening skills that will help your child develop a love of books. At the same time you will be developing their vocabulary.

As your child becomes older, you can adapt the style of reading to perhaps perform a play, read poetry or chosen novels you enjoyed as a kid. You child will be intrigued to learn more.

This notion of reading is even more essential when confronted with children with special needs or learning disabilities such as dyslexia. I have personal experience of this and have found through hard work that ensuring a nightly regime of reading fun books ensures that a love of reading for fun is achievable.

Listening to stories, discussing a story or their illustrations, fuels imagination and creativity. After each story, make time to discuss what your child thought of the book. If reading takes place at bedtime, make certain you build in time with lights out at the same hour.

For older children you could propose that they read in bed for 15 minutes by offering them a fun head lamp, book lamp as a treat. Also encourage them to write a review once books have been read. Perhaps set up a blog page for them to be their own book critic and award small treats for the best reviews each month. They could set up their own 'publishing house' and write their own stories and get young siblings to review!

Alternatively for younger children ask them to draw images from stories they have heard, or invent their own 'kingdom' based on a recent story shared. These are additional activities, but as a minimum make time to read, or if you can’t always do that, arrange for audio stories to be played.

For more concrete advice and statistics on why reading aloud is so important I would encourage you to read the following book. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (1983). It’s been around for many years but the message and content still remain true today. It was around the time that Jim Trelease wrote his book that the US Department of Education created a national Commission on Reading in the USA. Their challenge was to examine 10,000+ reading research projects that had been used in the previous 25 years and report on what really worked.

The Commission’s most immediate finding was:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

Sandra SC Arthur has written five book under here theme of 'making reading fun'. She provides early learning videos, teaching resources and music links to expand awareness of musical styles.

Discover more on resources she provides at SandraArthurBooks.