My dear friend, Yolanda Wells, is a pre-school teacher and educational blogger. She has graciously agreed to write a guest post on why it matters, developmentally, to read aloud to children. I hope you find it as helpful as I did!
3 Reasons Why You Should Read Aloud to Children
By: Yolanda Wells Matters of the Child
I remember so fondly like it was yesterday. Me, a second grader anticipating my favorite time of the day—read aloud time. The one book I remember her reading that captured my attention the most was Ronald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. It left such an effect on me that I considered myself a torch bearer and read it to my second graders when I became a second grade teacher.
You see, I grew up in a home where books were never read aloud to me. Books were bought and given to me to read, yet no one took the time to actually read aloud to and with me. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the read aloud time in school.
So why do we even need to read aloud to young children?
Reading aloud with children is not just something we do to past the time or check the box. It should be an intentional endeavor—one of many tools that are used to achieve particular goals in the shaping of the young mind.
Let’s take a look at three of the main reasons why reading aloud early in the child’s life is so crucial.
Dr. Henry Cloud in his book Changes That Heal says this about bonding: “Without a solid, bonded relationship, the human should will become mired in psychological and emotional problems. The should cannot prosper without being connected to others.”
Bonding is a very critical social/emotional need to be met in children and reading books with children can help us achieve that. Of course books aren’t the only form of bonding, however it is one form that can open the door to myriad of conversations in a non aggressive way. There are memories that can be stirred up within the adult to share with the child or pressing issues on the child’s heart that mirror what was read aloud while reading.
Picking up a book and talking about the character problems, behaviors or even just laughing at the events occur are great ways to bond. You never know where the conversation may lead.
2. Language and Academic Boost
It has been said that babies who are read to at 6 months of age have better vocabularies and literacy skills when they start school. When reading board books and such when they’re babies the language they will hear is usually more sophisticated and correct than what you would hear in day-to-day conversation. This is a big plus for language development and academic achievement later on. Not only are you increasing language and academic skills, you are also developing an appreciation for books which leads to a delight in books.
I can always, for the most part, tell which kids have been read to early and frequently by how they communicate and attend to books. These children are not afraid to manipulate with words and try them out in various contexts. They generally have better expressive and receptive language skills. At 4-5 years old it may not be perfect, of course, but you can definitely tell that those language muscles in the brain have been exercised. In an article I wrote here, I share an amazing opportunity that the reading aloud of a book opened up for my preschoolers.
You don’t have to read everything!
It bears mentioning that repeated read alouds are key here. You would do well to have a few books on hand that are read aloud often than have a wide selection of books around that are read sporadically. Find books with impeccable and sophisticated illustrations and quality language that your child AND you enjoy. Then make it a point to read them frequently. This helps children to understand complex ideas and problems presented by the author and internalize the ideas and vocabulary for future reference.
Even if you have children in your midst whose brains are just not ready to read, reading aloud is the BEST thing you can do for that child. By sitting that child in your lap and reading/tracking the words on the page you are definitely grooming their brain for the day when it will just click. Those letters and sounds will begin to make sense and they will take off reading.
3. Character Training
I once had the opportunity to watch a homeschool summit where Mark Hamby, founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries, presented on the topic of using literature to instruct in wisdom. He brought up some very interesting, yet inconspicuous information.
He pointed out that children learn their value system by reading or listening to stories being read aloud and that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Consider the patriarchs of the Bible, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. When their children were young they passed down their faith through stories about God and what He had promised. These subtle points are the very things we tend to overlook and not put much stock into.
If this is the case, then, reading aloud quality literature to children beginning in the early years is one thing you don’t want to miss out on. By God’s grace books have been used as an aid in getting children on that upward trajectory in the academic and spiritual domains. Therefore, let us redeem the time we have with the little ones and crack open a good book.
You can visit Yolanda’s excellent blog on early childhood education here.