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Just How Important is Reading Aloud to Children?

Updated on August 17, 2012

The Benefits of Reading Aloud

Parents and educators recognize the importance of reading to children. But how important is it really? An extensive study done in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Education determined that “children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness when they entered kindergarten than did children who were read to less often and...they were twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading”. It is also known that one of the best predictors of early reading success is phonemic awareness. This is powerful information for stressing the importance of reading aloud to children.There are reading strategies and knowledge, oral vocabulary development, and communications skills that are cultivated in children that listen to stories. In order to optimize learning and motivation for reading it is important to practice reading aloud to children. Listed below are some of the valualbe benefits this instruction offers children.

  • It builds listening skills and increases children’s attention span as they learn to concentrate at length to stories.
  • It exposes children to the specific elements of book language which is different from spoken language. They become familiar with text structure and new vocabulary.
  • It expands children’s schema for things they know. Reading books opens up a child’s world giving them opportunity to learn information.
  • It contributes to their practice at asking questions and developing opinions about the stories they read.
  • Listening to stories read aloud has a direct impact on children’s reading and writing.
  • Exploring a variety of text types introduces children to the different purposes for reading and writing i.e. fiction to entertain and non-fiction to inform.
  • It provides a model for children and motivates them to become readers and lifelong learners.

Tips for Read Aloud

It is never too early or late to read to children. Reading should start at birth and continue on long after children are able to read on their own. An infant benefits from listening to the rhythmic sounds and voice intonations of a story being read. Older children benefit from the complex thinking and learning that occurs when they listen to texts that are slightly more difficult than they could read on their own. Therefore, it is important to start a reading routine with children and keep it a consistent part of their daily activities. Here are some ways to help set the stage for successful read aloud sessions.

  • Find a comfortable place to share the story. Discover new places to read that make it fun and interesting i.e. under a tree, in a home-made fort, at the library, or in the park.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments with meaningful examples of texts in the world, i.e. road signs, menus, billboards, cereal boxes.
  • During a read aloud monitor children's interest and if they seem restless move onto another activity. Some longer stories may need to be spread out over several reading sessions.
  • Read stories that are slightly more complex than they would be able to read on their own.
  • Choose interesting books that are enjoyable to children. It is ok to stop a story after a few pages if it is not interesting.
  • Encourage children to explain their opinion about books and articles using specific examples. This helps children to think critically.
  • Remember to explore a variety of text types, i.e. poems, stories, children’s articles and magazines, comics, etc.
  • Ask children quality questions to build communication skills and comprehension. Also teach them to ask their own questions.
  • Practice rereading phrases and sections of text to emphasize expression.
  • Make sure children have a good view of the book that you are reading.
  • Read stories without pictures and have children visualize it by creating pictures in their mind.
  • Before, during, and after the reading of the story take time for discussion. Include predictions, opinions, questions, summaries, etc. about the story.
  • Explore the think aloud strategy which supports read aloud instruction by introducing the thinking that good readers do.

Let the child sit back and relax.
Let the child sit back and relax.

The Gift of Read Aloud

Reading aloud is a gift you can give to children that is critical for reading development and is also an enjoyable way for parents and children to bond. It fosters communication and promotes meaningful discussions. It encourages children to express themselves more confidently and easily then if they had to read the text for themselves. They can sit back, relax and discover enjoyment for reading. When children are freed to focus on the meaning of the story they are able to work on developing comprehension skills. Read aloud is a strategy for parents and educators to establish strong early literacy skills in children. It motivates a love of reading and also provides the gift of valuable time together.

The Read Aloud Handbook

Long time educational researcher, Jim Trelease, presents considerable evidence to the importance of reading aloud to children. His book also includes over 100 pages of recommended picturebooks and novels that make good read-alouds.

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    • savanahl profile image

      savanahl 5 years ago

      Great information. I'm a huge advocate of reading and these are some great ideas and reminders. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thanks for your comments savanahl!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Another great hub topic and you handled this with expertise! I agree that reading aloud is a great way to spark interest in reading. If they see the enthusiasm you demonstrate and enjoy the warm nurturing of a parent it can only lead them to want to read.

      I recently published a hub on reading with a young child (not promoting my hub) and now I remember that it was the question and answers during storytime that also helped to create reading comprehension. You mentioned this in your hub and I agree that this coupled with all the other tips will lead to a love of reading. Voted up!

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I have very fond memories of reading with both parents, as far back as I can remember. Of course, this wasn't the only factor, but I did learn to read very early and had to have books brought over to my preschool from an elementary school, because I'd outgrown all the books they had handy.

    • profile image

      win-winresources 5 years ago from Colorado

      Hi Sturgeonl-

      Reading aloud to a child is a wonderful bonding experience. Additionally, this action enjoys stimulation of all senses which helps trigger memory, feelings of comfort, satisfaction and joy.

      Just can't go wrong reading to a child.

      -DW

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Hi teaches 12345. I agree that the questions and answers during story time help comprehension. I also agree that the enthusiasm and nuturing shown by parents will only help children in their reading. Thanks for commenting!!

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thanks maddie ruud for sharing your fond memories of being read to as a child. It sounds like it really helped to spark a love for reading!

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thank you win-winresources for sharing your points about the memory triggers of comfort, satisfaction and joy that reading aloud elicits. It is easy to see how this activity will actually contribute to the long-term emotional wellness of children.

    • CJ Andrews profile image

      Chris Andrews 5 years ago from Norwalk, Ohio

      I like your hub, we read to our daughter all the time. Her vocabulary is amazing for being 4 yrs old. And I enjoy reading to her just to spend a little more time with her.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thanks CJ Andrews for validating the importance and benefits of reading to your child!

    • stepmom726 profile image

      stepmom726 5 years ago from home

      it is soimportant to follow what the kids do in school at home and show them how important the learning process is when they are yound

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thanks for your comments stepmom726!

    • taylord08 profile image

      taylord08 5 years ago from Virginia Beach

      I belive in reading aloud to my kids. Its teaches them and it is a good way to spend some good quality time together.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      You couldn't have said it any better! Thanks for sharing taylord08.

    • profile image

      mediaT 5 years ago

      Excellent points! I found that reading aloud to my kids with lots of expression and even animated voices encouraged them to do the same. Their classmates love hearing them read. My daughter won 1st place in her class's speech contest because she said it with so much expression. Reading aloud affects children's presentation skills later. Who knew?

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      What a terrific example of some of the long term benefits of reading aloud. Thank you media T for sharing this great point.

    • greatparenting profile image

      greatparenting 5 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

      Great hub. The importance of reading aloud to kids can't be overstated. I would also add that it's never to early to start and it's never too late to stop. In other words, we read aloud to young children but not often after they are in about third grade. It's a shame because parents and kids can benefit from a great read aloud at any age.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      I completely agree! Thanks for stopping by greatparenting.

    • profile image

      samnang222 5 years ago

      Great hub, sometime I did with my a little son but I really did not know the important things in reading loud to the child, thanks for that.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Nice to know you did it with your son! Thanks for sharing samnang222.

    • profile image

      whowas 4 years ago

      Hi Sturgeonl,

      A splendid and important article, this one. I started reading to my children from the day they were born and I sincerely believe that the benefits are manifold and tangible.

      Those benefits are evident not only in the development of their own language and reading skills but also in there broader education as they became able to understand what we were reading and then started to naturally join in. Also, the bonding and the trust that is built up during early reading time is a firm foundation of the growing relationship throughout our lives together.

      Thanks again for a great article. :)

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge for the power of reading aloud to children. Great to have you stop by and comment whowas!

    • profile image

      whowas 4 years ago

      oops! I'm a bit ashamed of having written 'there' instead of 'their' in the above comment. Let's call it a typo? ;)

    • profile image

      Robben Wainer 4 years ago

      Sharing in reading to each other can hopefully continue for as long as we live. It is refreshing to think that we may never tire of being read to when the material asks inter-personal questions that draw on our own level of self interest that merits it's own reward. We may also never tire of reading to others when the material we share, helps to provide wisdom in how, as individuals we have gained insight from the perspectives of others.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 4 years ago

      How very well said Robben. Thank you for sharing! It is nice to be reminded to appreciate reading for the pure purpose, of the many personal rewards it brings.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 4 years ago

      Thank you for your comment. You are so right...education is so important in this fast world of information technology!

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