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The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children

Updated on January 23, 2013
Reading aloud to children teaches them early literacy skills.
Reading aloud to children teaches them early literacy skills. | Source

Parents who read aloud to their children are setting them up for academic success

Look in any book on parenting, and at some point the author is going to recommend that parents spend some time reading to their children Some parenting sources suggest that children may benefit from reading aloud from infancy, and there are even some sources that recommend reading to children who are still in the womb. What is it about reading aloud that is so beneficial and necessary? How does this simple act increase pre-literacy skills, encourage bonding and set the child up for academic success? According to research done by the American Library Association, reading to children teaches them six pre-literacy skills that they must learn before they will be able to learn to read. Those six skills are:

  • Letter Knowledge
  • Print Awareness
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Vocabulary
  • Narrative Skills
  • Print Motivation


Letter Recognition

No child can begin the process of learning how to read without understanding the concept of letter recognition. They must understand that those strange little squiggles on the page are letters of the alphabet. The child must learn to recognize those letters, call them by name, and understand that they are associated with certain sounds. This is why one of the first songs children learn is the alphabet song. You can reinforce letter recognition in your child by reading him or her such great alphabet books as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin or the gloriously illustrated Animalia by Graeme Base. Also point out letters all round you - in road signs, in signs at the grocery store, on restaurant menus and even on cereal boxes.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

An open book reads from left to right
An open book reads from left to right | Source

Print Awareness

Closely related to letter recognition is the concept of print awareness. This skill is about understand how books work. A baby handling a board book is as likely as not to hold it upside down. Through interacting with books, children will learn which end of the book goes up, to read the text from left to right, and how to turn the pages correctly. One great book that teaches print awareness is The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone. Grover, the furry little monster from Sesame Street, begs the reader not to turn the pages, because he fears to confront the monster who lurks on the last page. As the reader turns each subsequent page, Grover becomes more and more upset until he gets a surprise at the end.

Nursery rhymes teach reading skills.
Nursery rhymes teach reading skills. | Source

Phonological Awareness

Once your child knows what letters are and what sounds they make, it's time to learn phonological awareness - the concept that letters form the building blocks of words. Children who are read stories with rhyming text will soon understand that the meaning of a word can change with the substitution of a single letter. This is why Mother Goose rhymes and rhyming fingerplays are so popular and effective with young children. Nearly any rhyming book is good for teaching phonological awareness, although one of the most successful and famous is The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss Try also Llama Llama Red Pajama, the rhyming story of a little llama at bedtime who wishes for attention from his mama.


Vocabulary, as defined by the American Library Association, is about knowing the names of things. Children will not be able to read words until they are familiar with the words, and reading books to children is an excellent method of introducing them to words they might not otherwise encounter in everyday life. To teach your children vocabulary, talk to them constantly about things they see around them. Identify new objects you pass in the grocery store, or go for a walk in the park and talk about the things you see all around you. When looking for books to teach vocabulary, consider such books as Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, which shows pictures of hundreds of commonplace objects and identifies them by name.

Narrative Skills

Children who are read to by their parents learn narrative skills - the ability to understand sequencing, and how to tell a story. They learn that events take place in a particular logical order, and they begin to be able to place those events in the correct order themselves. Children learning narrative skills will also be able to describe things that happen to them throughout the day. One particular category of books that is especially good for teaching this concept are cumulative tales - tales in which each event builds on the one that proceeds it, usually in a very repetitive way. One example of such a story is The Napping House by Audrey Wood. First we see a snoring granny on a bed in the napping house. She is soon joined by a dreaming child, and then a dozing dog, and an increasing menagerie of sleeping animals who pile on the bed until a wakeful flea bites the slumbering mouse and causes a commotion that wakes everybody up. As children become more familiar with such books as these, they will begin telling the stories themselves.

Print Motivation

The final skill that parents teach their children by reading to them is print motivation - the inclination to love books and reading. Children who are read to from an early age learn to perceive reading as a bonding experience between themselves and their parents. They recognize it as a source of entertainment, and they learn to see books as a way to gain pleasure throughout their lives. Children who learn print motivation will become better readers because they see it as a source of joy rather than as merely a chore or school requirement. To encourage print motivation, read to your child daily and keep books readily available at all times.


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    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 4 years ago

      Voted up and useful for all the great inspiration and information shared here. I love to read and have had the pleasure of reading to my own children and my grandson. It is so exciting to see a love for words, stories and books develop over time.

      I've taken my grandson to our local library since he was two years old. He is five now and picks out his own books. He can identify all the letters in the alphabet and recognizes sight words and knows the sounds each letters makes. It's been a true adventure watching his interests grow in certain subjects.

    • SoManyPaths profile image

      SoManyPaths 5 years ago from West Coast USA

      I agree it is a great experience. One you never forget and hopefully the child doesn't either. Although, I cannot recall my parents ever reading to me. Fast forward to present day, I did notice a huge jump in my kids vocabulary and anunciation. It was just quick and sudden.

    • ChrisMcDade8 profile image

      Christine McDade 5 years ago from Southwest Florida

      I always found reading aloud to children to be somewhat of a magical experience. As a child, it was certainly enjoyable. As a mother I have enjoyed being the reader. Your hub helps explain why this is the case . Voted up!

    • nylarej profile image

      nylarej 5 years ago from Ph

      Great hub! I always try to spend spare time with my kids reading aloud but can't keep doing so due to throat problems. :(

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Great hub! I started reading to my nephew as soon as he could sit up in my lap and look at books. By the time he was two he could identify words. A lot of people do not believe this but it is the truth. My dad also did the same thing with him with the computer keyboard. He would sit on my dad's lap and my dad would take one of his fingers and say the letter while typing it. It was amazing how quick he started to identify letters. Wonderful information!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Great hub recappers delight! We read to our daughter every night for many years. Not only does it help with everything you mentioned, it was a wonderful bonding time for us. I miss that quite time with her sometimes. As a side note, my daughter still loves the Napping House book. She always gets a kick out of it. Shared.