|Uncle Duane reading to Erika, Alesha, and Daniel|
|Suzanne at one year old|
When I was a teacher one of the favorite times of the day for the students was when I read aloud to them. I remember that being a favorite time for myself as a child as well.
What are the advantages to reading aloud and especially to young children? In an interview with Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, which I must admit I've not read, he gives three reasons why reading aloud is important.
1. "It's long established in science and research: the child who comes to school with a large vocabulary does better than the child who comes to school with little familiarity with words and a low vocabulary." Why is that? Because in the early years of school almost everything is oral. The teacher talks a lot and the kids with the largest vocabularies are the ones who follow along most easily. The kids with small vocabularies are lost from the beginning.
And how does a child develop an extensive vocabulary? By being talked to and by being read to. But in conversation we tend to use verbal shorthand and not full sentences. Mr. Trelease says, "But the language in books is very rich, and in books there are complete sentences. In books, newspapers, and magazines, the language is more complicated, more sophisticated. A child who hears more sophisticated words has a giant advantage over a child who hasn't heard those words."
2. Mr. Trelease says reading to a child also increases their attention spans which will aid them greatly in having a successful school career.
3. Reading aloud is a great advertisement for books. Children who are read to will love books. I understand that not every child who is read to will be a great reader, but perhaps they'll be better readers than they would have been without being read to.
I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own as well.
1. A lot of children don't really like to sit still and cuddle with parents, but they will sit on your lap or snuggle close to you when you read to them. So it's a sneaky way to get in some cuddle time with kids whose love language is not physical touch.
2. The colors and drawings in books are fascinating and can spark children's imaginations. As they grow older and get into chapter books without pictures their minds have already learned to draw their own mental pictures to go along with the words.
3. Your baby hasn't got a clue what in the world you're reading to her about. But she does learn to love the sound of your voice and helps her to create different sounds as she learns to talk.
4. Mr. Trelease mentions that reading increases attention spans which is helpful in school. I'd like to add that an increased attention span helps the child stick with tasks such as chores given at home and helps them to sit quietly for longer and longer periods of time at church.
5. Mr. Trelease, my teaching experience, and curriculums such as Sonlight have all discovered that children can listen, understand, and enjoy books that are far beyond their own personal reading level. So when you read aloud, don't be afraid to try reading something that you know is above their level. (Of course, we aren't talking about reading college textbooks to six year olds!)
6. If you have a new baby and a toddler or pre-schoolers, reading to the older children while you nurse the baby is a great idea. It allows you to spend quality time with the older child at a time when he might be feeling displaced. It keeps the older one near you so you know where he's at and what he's doing. And it's an activity you can do with the older one that requires only one hand.
So, pick up a book and read to a child. It will help them and I bet you'll enjoy it just as much as they do!