Raising a Reader – 10 Reasons for Reading Aloud

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.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown was one of our top five read-alouds when my children were little.

To start discovering your own family favorites visit the following sites

www.reading.org

The Children’s Book Council is an association of U.S. kids’ book publishers. It offers parents helpful information for building a home library.

www.rif.org

The Reading is Fundamental group also provides literacy resources such as booklists.

Read Across America Day

Celebrate reading on March 3, National Read Across America Day. All across the country students will participate in the 17th annual literacy program. The event is held in March to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2. This year, his 110th birthday!

Theodore Seuss Geisel, more popularly known as, Dr. Seuss, published close to fifty children’s books. Everyone has their favorite, but The Cat in the Hat has won him the most acclaim. Challenged to write a book that a first grader couldn’t put down, and using only words from a 250 word list, Dr. Seuss, wrote The Cat in the Hat. He succeeded on both counts. He used only 236 words from that mandated list and after fifty years the book is still entertaining children and adults alike.

Dr. Seuss’s books feature colorful characters, humor,rhyme, and above all else – imagination. It’s hard to believe that his first children’s book was rejected by publishers twenty-seven times! Thank goodness he persevered. Take note, pre-published authors, if at first you don’t succeed . . . well you know the rest.

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One of my favorites is Oh, the Places You’ll Go! It was a great book to read aloud on the last day of school, especially to my high school seniors. Its encouraging message for new beginnings in life is very inspiring. As he writes in the book, “You’re off to great places! You’re off and away.” So on March 3rd venture out, off and away to a new book. Oh, the places you’ll go when you read.

Check out this site for activities related to Read Across America and Dr. Seuss. For parents there are crafts, recipes, and many other fun activities. And for educators there are printables, lesson plans, and other classroom resources.

http://www.seussville.com/Educators/educatorReadAcrossAmerica.php

Slurping Down Books

Tucked away in the corner of a 7-11 convenience store, books await, ready for children to venture out to faraway places and adventures. The store’s owners Sushil Prakash and Josephine Kiran understand that literacy is critical to a child’s well-being and their philosophy is reflected in the banner above the store’s library which proclaims – READ AND SUCCEED.

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But they also realize that there are many distractions facing today’s kids. In order to encourage their young customers to put aside the video games and T.V., they entice the children with free Slurpees. The idea behind the 7-11 library is simple: Borrow a book and report on it to earn a sweet treat.  Brian Morin, 11-years-old, when interviewed by The Fresno Bee said, “The library is a double treat.”

Reading for incentives is not a new concept, but a Slurpee definitely beats out a gold star any day. Some might argue that children should be reading for the pleasure of reading itself and not for an extrinsic reward. But that won’t ever happen unless a child starts reading and discovers the joy of pleasure reading. Often, all it takes is one book or author that connects with a child and “hooks” them into reading for a lifetime.

Access to books has also been shown to be integral to fostering life-long readers. Kudos to the store’s owners for making that possible for the children in their neighborhood. The convenience of picking up a book at the corner market truly makes this 7-11 a convenience store.

Community support has been overwhelming. So far over 500 books have been donated. A nearby school is also helping ensure the library’s success by having teachers label the books’ reading level so kids check out books appropriate for them. The higher-ups at 7-11 have even taken notice and are considering expanding the program.

If you would like to contribute to this wonderful endeavor, books can be dropped off at the store which is located at 2414 N. Fruit Ave. Fresno, CA 93705.

And

Contact 7-11’s corporate office and encourage them to expand the libraries nationwide.