Reading permeates every aspect of our culture. In order to be successful, one has to be able to read critically and navigate our increasingly complex world. And yet, teachers will tell you the gaps start in the fourth grade. The haves vs. the have-nots. No, we’re not talking about financial success, but reading ability. Wait a minute, maybe that’s what we are talking about. The curriculum shifts in the fourth grade from learning to read, to reading to know. And as we are all aware – knowledge is the foundation for success.
So what’s a parent to do?
One simple task.
Yes, you heard me right.
One simple task.
And that is . . . Reading aloud.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Yes, it is.
As an educator and more importantly as a parent who read aloud to my own children, I can vouch for its merits. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what the experts tell us about the benefits of reading aloud.
Reading aloud provides a risk-free environment to experience books.
Stress levels are reduced when correct pronunciation and word identification are not your child’s responsibility. He will be able to relax and enjoy the reading experience without worrying about making mistakes.
Reading aloud will expand your child’s background knowledge.
Readers draw upon their prior knowledge to understand what they read. The more you read to your child, the more information he will bring to the printed page and that will improve his comprehension.
Reading aloud builds vocabulary.
Reading to your child exposes him to new words, and as his word recognition skills increase, he won’t have to work so hard, trying to figure out unfamiliar words. The reading process then will flow for him with a minimum of disruptions.
Reading aloud develops understanding of how language works.
Knowing that sentences are constructed in specific ways will improve your child’s reading ability. Not only will he become a more fluent reader, but also a better writer when constructing his own sentences.
Reading aloud nurtures an appreciation for language.
Just twenty-six letters in the English language, but they hold the power to inspire, inform, and entertain. Once your child discovers the magic of words, he will be hooked for life.
Reading aloud provides a positive role model for your child.
Lead by example. A child raised in a home where reading is a daily part of life is given the message that reading is valued and he will follow in your footsteps.
Reading aloud affords opportunities to clarify understanding.
When questions arise naturally during the reading time, you will be able to offer explanations. And as his background knowledge increases, he will be better prepared when he reads on his own.
Reading aloud promotes reading.
Read a wide range of books to discover what appeals to your child. Once a book captures a child’s interest, he will seek out more of the same. He may want to spend more time with a particular character, a certain genre, or other books by that same author.
Reading aloud provides a meaningful reading experience.
Readers read books, focused always on meaning or making sense of it all. Again, readers read books. Not worksheets, flashcards, or tests.
Reading aloud brings us closer to the heart.
Closer to your child. Closer to others as we inhabit someone else’s experience, even if only for a few pages.
And finally, knowing that you have enriched your child’s life by reading aloud may be the best reason of all. Strickland Gillilanelaborated on this in his famous poem, The Reading Mother, but I have tinkered here with the often quoted abbreviated form. After all, fathers should also have an opportunity to experience the joy of reading aloud to their children.
Richer than me
you will never be,
I had a parent
who read to me.