They will benefit enormously.
My greatest childhood memory is of my mom, my sister, and I, cuddled up on our huge green couch with mugs of hot chocolate, reading book after book out loud. The pages of our books would come to life as we took turns reading, each trying to outdo the other with better voices or more expression. As a result, I would often sneak a book into my room and practise for the next time. I didn’t realize it then, but our family reading time was the foundation for my lifelong love of the written word, and so much more.
Studies show that reading to your children has many benefits. It instills in them a passion for reading, improves background knowledge, vocabulary, diction, and comprehension, and fires up their imaginations. Your kids will develop better reading, writing, and speaking skills, and have better academic performance. The key is to start reading together early in childhood, do it often, and make it fun!
The rewards of reading aloud
Reading to your children helps them learn what words look and sound like and see grammar in action, says Grade 2 teacher Amy De Sousa. And she’s seen the difference it makes in academic performance. “Students whose parents read with them often have higher fluency, vocabulary, and inferencing skills. They are better spellers, excellent writers, and use vivid imagery in their stories,” she says. “These students also tend to ask more questions in class.”
According to numerous academic studies, young children who are read to for at least 10 minutes a day show an aptitude for learning. This is most obvious when these kids enter the classroom, according to De Sousa. “I can often point out students who come from homes where reading is valued,” she says. “My students who have been read to are more familiar with text, more active in school, and more apt to pick up a book and read on their own during free time.
Making time for reading
A child is never too young or too old to be read to. Start with bright board books for babies and colourful picture books for toddlers. Let older children choose their own books from the library or a bookstore. Don’t stop reading aloud after your child learns to read – kids continue to benefit as they grow older.
It’s important to make the family reading experience fun, says local mom Maria Stanley, who reads nightly (and daily) to her two kids, ages 3 and 7. “It’s always better when we use funny voices,” says Stanley. “The kids have learned to expect a performance with some of the books we read regularly.”
Stanley says her kids are likely to ask her to read at any time of the day so she makes the books and herself available. “I have books set up in several rooms of the house in accessible baskets and shelving. I will put everything aside to make sure that we can sit together and read and talk about the stories.”
Amy De Sousa says that in addition to academic benefits, reading aloud provides parent and child with a sense of joy and togetherness. “Spending time reading with your children is the most important use of time. It’s about sharing an experience and creating a memory that you’ll cherish always.”
Stanley agrees. “I love them sitting on my lap on the couch, all smushed together, reading a funny little story. Reading unites us every day and every night.”
Tips on Reading Aloud
Before You Read
Make sure everyone is comfortable
Look at the cover and discuss what the story may be about
While You Read
Change your tone and expression to suit the characters
Point to each word as you read it
Allow your child to turn the pages
Explain new words
Ask your children to read a word, sentence or page
After You Read
Ask your children about their favourite part or picture
Create a fun craft or game based on the book