As a lifelong bookworm as well as a former gifted teacher with Masters credentials, turned homeschool mom and book lady, I have been passionate about reading and spreading literacy all of my life. I know the benefits of reading aloud to children from birth all the way through high school (which is well beyond the time period by which they can read independently). Through my line of work as a former educator, now book lady, and on my homeschool journey, I’ve read a lot specifically on the topic of reading aloud.
Some books I recommend on this topic include:
- The Enchanted Hour - Meghan Cox Gurdon
- The Read-Aloud Family - Sarah Mackenzie
- The Read-Aloud Handbook - Jim Trelease
To save you some time, I wanted to round up a little summary of the top 10 read aloud benefits that I’ve come across in these books and in my own personal experience reading aloud to my own children!
1. Promotes Positive Brain Development
In the human brain, it is said that “nerves that fire together, wire together.” Early learning experiences make the brain connections and wiring stronger for children. Studies have shown that early and frequent access to books and shared reading experiences with adults result in significant differences in brain function and development when compared to those who don’t have similar book access and experiences. All of these experiences lay the groundwork for future thought and reasoning. The American Academy of Pediatrics even advises doctors to recommend daily reading aloud for their patients, as it “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” among other important benefits. By frequently reading aloud to children from an early age, we can help condition their brains to associate reading with pleasure, too!
2. Prepares Children for Academic Success
It is said by the 1985 Commission on Reading that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Also, studies have shown that regardless of family income, and even more effective than expensive tutoring or private education, the more children are read to, the higher their test scores are!
3. Exposes Children to New Vocabulary
Books, (including picture books!) expose our children to far more sophisticated vocabulary than what we use in typical conversations with one another. Something to note is that kids’ listening comprehension level is always higher than their reading comprehension. This means that they can understand stories with more complex vocabulary that are read aloud than what they could understand if they were reading on their own. Personally, we love reading aloud unabridged classics as part of our homeschool reading, partly for this reason! The wonderful thing is kids are hearing the words in context and can quite easily figure out the meanings of these new words without further explanation from us, in many cases. They then go on to surprise us by putting their new words to good use when we least expect them to!
4. Helps Nurture Empathy & Compassion
Through the power of stories, we can step into the shoes of another person. When we become engrossed in a story, we are stirred, we can feel the human-to-human connection. Books can transform us, as they can change our perspectives, open our eyes to different events, cultures, and experiences than our own. We can begin to see the world that we live in from a different point of view. Studies show that people who read fiction are more empathetic and compassionate to those in our real lives. Stories teach us how to love others deeply. Reading aloud gives both our children and us an education of both the heart and the mind.
5. Promotes Good Listening Skills & Imagination
Children who are read to frequently are used to listening and have learned that paying attention leads to rewards - they get to experience great stories! It is no surprise that children from read-aloud families often have great attention spans, which is a fantastic life skill that will also aid in their academic success! Then consider the positive effects on a child’s imagination during a read aloud, especially in the case of novels - children must actively bring the sights and sounds of a story to live in their own imaginations. They meet characters and experience things that they would never experience in the real world, as a result!
6. Helps Us to Live a Thousand Lives & Experience Vicariously Through a Story
Our children are going to face challenges throughout their lives and oftentimes, the stories we read together give them an opportunity to “practice” living through an experience vicariously. We cannot protect them from everything or shoulder the burdens that they will face in life. By reading aloud to them, we can provide them with frequent opportunities to “practice” to prepare them for these challenges and teach them to be courageous and heroic, even as children. The stories found in books can give our children experiences well beyond what they could ordinarily experience. In this way, they can “live a thousand lives” before they ever even leave home.
7. “Furnishes” the Mind & Creates Background Knowledge
Regardless of personal experience, the more a child reads or is read to, the more background knowledge they will bring to their learning experiences, and the more they can connect to and grasp new learning in the academic setting. Reading aloud to kids “furnishes” their minds with new cultural experiences, useful bits of general knowledge, renowned characters, stories of the real and imagined past, beautiful images through illustrations, works of art, and practical wisdom that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
8. Plants Desire to Read
Perhaps even more important than teaching children the skill of reading is the importance of cultivating our children’s love for stories. If they LOVE stories, they WILL have a desire to read on their own accord. Interestingly, the more children (and adults!) read, the more they want to read, and to find out what else or what next, as it gives them great momentum to keep going! We can only hope that through reading aloud to our children, we will instill that lifelong love for reading so that they might seek out great books for years and years to come!
9. Provides a Reading Role Model
When we read aloud to our kids, we provide a good example for them on how to read well - how to enunciate our words, read with expression, pronounce unfamiliar words, and pause in the appropriate places. Hearing these good examples will aid them in their reading journey, as these are skills that they will need for reading (and oral communication and writing!) success as well.
10. Strengthens Bonds of Love
It is said that children are made readers in the laps of their parents. When we put aside technology and we read aloud to our children, we become more connected, and secured to one another. Stress diminishes, and we experience feelings of warmth and relaxation. All parties experience positive physical sensations and even chemical changes as a result of reading aloud. A study was conducted on the effects of reading aloud on NICU babies and it was found that babies that listened to their parents’ recorded narration were cited to experience calming effects such as stable heartbeat and breathing during sessions. In this age of technology and distraction with so many adults and teens attached to their phones and devices, integrating family read aloud experiences has proven to have emotional rewards, therapeutic effects, and positive opportunities to build relationships for all who are involved. Our children will treasure their memories being read to for years to come.
In conclusion, the benefits of reading aloud to our children abound! In case you couldn’t tell, we are giant advocates for reading aloud to your children from birth to high school as much as you possibly can!
Here at kidsbookfort.com, we would love to help enrich your read aloud experiences with your children using Usborne Books and Kane Miller titles, some of the best children’s books on the market today! We are always happy to match your kids up to books that are best suited for their ages and interests. Reach out anytime to ask for book recommendations. We love being book matchmakers!
We hope that you enjoyed this blog post and got some value from it! Also, be sure to check out our blog post and associated e-book with 10 Tips to Raising a Reader!
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