Let’s face it; we all know the importance of reading aloud to our kids. (Fun fact: reading aloud makes up for 1/3 of our curriculum’s key foundational pillars!). But why, exactly? What’s happening to the minds and hearts of our children every time we crack the spine on a new Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, or Langston Hughes?
We’ve spent years deep-diving into research studies, statistics, and fascinating facts of reading aloud. Today, we’re sharing with you the tip-top of our findings — why reading aloud matters, how to make it fun, what to read, and when to stop (hint: NEVER!)…
WHY READING ALOUD MATTERS
Reading aloud is crazy beneficial for so many developmental stages; chief among them being social-emotional, literary, and foundational…
Books are a child’s third parent. You know those days when you’re 100% worded out? It’s noon on a Tuesday and you’ve already used up every ounce of your brain’s space correcting, re-directing, and explaining to the littles underfoot? Read aloud. It’s the perfect mood-diffuser to rest your own brain and borrow the words of someone else for a change. Even better? Research suggests that children are more likely to recall a story, rather than a lecture. We can explain the importance of contentment and gratitude a hundred times over, but it’s not until Charlie Bucket inherits the chocolate factory that it finally hits home.
Reading aloud boosts relationships. Renowned and prolific children’s book author Mem Fox once wrote, “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.” If you’ve had a rough morning and need a reset button, a good story (and a warm snack!) is a surefire shortcut to harmony and connection.
Reading aloud creates lasting memories. Want to leave a legacy? Read to your littles. Award-wining novelist T.C. Boyle recently shared that he didn’t learn to read in school; he learned to read by listening to his mother’s stories. When I read now, he said, I still hear her voice in my head.
Books teach empathy. Our human experience is limited at best. We only know what we only know, right? But by sharing and learning the stories of others – fictional or not – we can begin to take steps toward understanding what it might be like to walk the path of another. Our children are no different! Exposing them to the similarities and differences of voices from Anne Frank to Zelda Sayre helps open their minds to humanity’s heartbeat.
Reading aloud boosts knowledge and comprehension skills. From fluency and expression to sentence structure and tone, reading aloud models literacy in the most basic of ways. According to psychologist Albert Bandura, observing others is one of the simplest and most effective methods for acquiring new knowledge and skills. In other words, reading can be “caught” not “taught” at any and every level.
Reading aloud grows vocabulary. Sure, you’re sick of reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for the 430th time, but did you know that repeating books increases vocabulary acquisition up to 40 percent?! Repetition is key in learning, especially for languages. By capitalizing on the benefits of immersion learning via your favorite read-aloud, you’re offering your child a solid foundation in literacy and beyond.
Reading aloud increases memory retention. In a recent Italian research study, a group of students read portions of novels to dementia patients for over sixty sessions. The patients were given a memory test both before and after their read-aloud session, and each time, the listeners performed better directly after the read-aloud. The study’s conclusion? “Actively listening to a story leads to more intense and deeper information processing.”
Reading aloud advances cognitive development. According to author and educator Jim Trelease, a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until just around eighth grade. This means – often times – rich language and timeless concepts don’t often appear within a child’s own reading levels, but can be well understood when listened to. In other words, while an elementary-aged child or reluctant reader might not be able to comprehend every line of The Chronicles of Narnia, they can most certainly enjoy the story’s lessons, values, and morals as a read-aloud.
Reading aloud builds later success. In a two-year study issued by the US Department of Education, researchers concluded that the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for a child’s eventual success is reading aloud. Perhaps Einstein was right all along: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
PSST… OLDER KIDS NEED IT, TOO!
A recent U.S. study reported that reading enjoyment declines sharply after age eight, even though 40% of 6 to 11-year-olds told researchers that they wish their parents would continue to read aloud to them. Furthermore, the report concludes that a 6 to 11-year-old child is more likely to be a frequent reader if they’re currently read aloud to at home.
A FEW PRO TIPS
Read during a meal. Wondering how to fit in read-aloud time during a day that’s frenzied with responsibilities, errands, deadlines, and everyday mayhem? Borrow a tip from our founder and read during mealtimes. Here’s why it works!
Tease the book. If you’ve got an independent reader and you want to introduce a classic book they might otherwise wrinkle their noses at, consider a tease. Read the first chapter or two aloud to your child, and then pass it off to them after their curiosity is piqued!
Keep hands busy. For toddlers and tots, offer markers and paper, readymade clay, or blocks to busy hands during a read-aloud. Reading aloud doesn’t often look like a trio of toeheads cuddled on the couch, no matter what Instagram tells you! Let little ears listen for as long as they can – however they can.
WHAT TO READ
Not sure which books to start with during your next read-aloud adventure? We’ve got a list of our favorite classics here, from Caldecott to Newbery winners and everything between!
p.s. Our members LOVE their daily read-aloud recommendations! Grab a free trial here to get yours.