We must take care that children’s early encounters with reading are painless enough, so they will cheerfully return to the experience now and forever. But if it’s repeatedly painful, we will end up creating a school-time reader instead of a lifetime reader.
One of the few memories I have of my mother that isn’t about being a mom, was her love of reading. With six kids, I’m not sure how she ever found time. It was one of the only personal pleasures she allowed herself and I was happy for every trip to the library. My mom passed her love of reading to me. I wanted to pass it to my kids and now my grandchildren. For us that meant reading to them as babies, preschoolers and young elementary students. Lots of time at the library. Summer reading groups. And a home full of piles and piles of books, ready and waiting to be discovered. I wanted my kids to love a good story. To be open and curious and discover through the world in books. But I found out being an avid reader is all that, and so much more.
Everything in education is about reading. This is good news for fluent readers. Bad news for lukewarm readers. Unfortunately, most visual kids are lukewarm readers who are struggling. Visual kids are picture people. They like pictures much more than words. It’s the way their brain works. They’re much happier with picture books than chapter books. When they transition to fewer pictures and more words, they can struggle. It can become a painful experience. To avoid problems, it’s critical we help them get through that transition, so they come out the other side reading well, still loving books and wanting to read.
This is why we read aloud to our kids. According to Jim Trelease and The Read-Aloud Handbook, reading aloud is more than a satisfying shared activity. In 1985 Commission on Reading, sponsored by The Department of Education published a report; Becoming a Nation of Readers and said: The ‘single most important activity’ for success in reading was to read aloud to children. Their second finding was, “reading aloud should happen in classroom and at home and should continue throughout the grades.” Reading aloud is paramount, at home and at school; and reading aloud should happen through ALL the GRADES!
When we read aloud, our students build vocabulary, create background knowledge and connect reading with pleasure. When listening, kids can exercise their imaginations and ‘see’ the characters and story, strengthening that part of their brain. When they listen, they hear the rhythm of words and phrases which helps them when they read on their own. Not having to decode the words as they hear the story helps them with reading comprehension. They can then apply this understanding of the story when they try to read it on their own. This is especially important for visual learners. Start reading to your kids when they’re babies. Read to them as preschoolers. Read to them in grade school. Keep reading to them beyond grade school. This doesn’t replace kids learning to read on their own. It primes the pump. It creates a desire to read. A hunger for stories.
The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease, is the bible on reading aloud. In it’s seventh edition, it’s full of how and why to read aloud to your kids. It also includes a ‘Giant Treasury of Great Read Aloud Books’. You should buy it just for that list. I like reading to kids because literacy is such a profound gift to give. Jim Trelease’s book convinced me it’s much more impactful than I thought it was. It’s reinvigorated me. Watch out family, I’m in search of listeners!
Let’s inspire each other. How do you incorporate reading aloud into family time?