More often than not, parents stop reading aloud to their children when they are about five or six, right around the time that kids begin to learn to read for themselves. Undoubtedly, other activities creep in, older children can more easily occupy themselves, and we simply forego read-alouds, fooling ourselves into believing it’s not that important and it doesn’t matter anymore.
We used to ask a renowned professor to come in and speak with our Title 1 parents early in the fall. This man once told the story of a dad who read to his daughter every night for her entire life. When the girl finally left the nest and headed off to college, she called her father. “Dad, I called so you could read to me.” Admittedly, this is an extreme example, but it does drive home the power of reading aloud.
No one ever outgrows read-alouds. Several weeks ago, my husband had to undergo back surgery. Although he had toted some books to the hospital, he was definitely not in the mood to read. Unfortunately, he was having difficulty sleeping as well. Each afternoon, as I sat beside him in the dimly-lit hospital room, I read aloud to him. I know the medicine made him drowsy, I know the discomfort robbed much of his attention, but I hoped that a soothing voice, beautiful words, and a good story would relax him and distract him for a time. Those moments of connecting through story, provided a respite for both of us, a way to feel connected and an opportunity to travel to a different time and place.
The benefits of reading aloud to children are well-documented. Reading aloud encourages fluency, builds vocabulary, boosts comprehension, and encourages discussion. Most importantly, however, I believe regularly reading together bonds parents and children in a unique way. You will forever share the common world of the stories you read. Books may become bridges for tough talks, beacons of strong values, bulwarks during challenging times. Reading with someone you love offers many rewards. There’s magic in sharing a story, in revisiting history, in solving a mystery, and in learning something new. Don’t you want to sprinkle your life with magic moments? Perhaps today is a good day to begin.
Have a favorite read-aloud? Won’t you share it with us.