It’s October, so that means it’s Booktober, and it’s time to read, read and read.
During the first week of Booktober, THS classrooms and shared spaces will be filled with teachers reading to students as often as they can. We’re hoping you, as parents, will join in at home by reading to your children as often as you can.
But if you ask, "Surely that does not apply to me? I have an older child in who can read..isn’t she too old to be read to, now that she can read on her own?"
Regardless of your child’s age, the answer to this question is “No, they’re not too old”. Do you still talk to your child, even though they can already speak fluently? Of course you still talk to them, because we don’t just talk to children to ‘teach them how to talk’. We do it to bond with our children and build relationships, to explain issues and concepts, to communicate emotions, beliefs, thoughts and opinions, to show them we love them, and to have fun together.
Reading to your child - regardless of their age - serves the same purpose. It’s a way to spend time connecting together, giving each other your undivided attention, exploring the ideas that books present, and broadening your child’s knowledge and vocabulary.
Reading aloud to your children improves their achievement at school, not only in reading but in other subjects as well. Now in its seventh edition with over a million copies sold, The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease has this to say:
1. Every time you read to your child, you’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to your child’s brain, so that they associate reading with pleasure. Given the years of effort required to learn to read fluently, and the amount of non-pleasurable reading they may have to do as they progress through to university or the workplace, it’s important that this idea of reading=pleasure is constantly reinforced.
2. Children who are read to are exposed to a richer vocabulary and more complex sentence structures than those who only hear everyday spoken conversations. “A child who has been read to will want to learn to read herself” as Trelease says. Children who are read to start school with a wider vocabulary, and this gives them a head start because in the first few years of education almost all classroom instructions and explanations are given orally. Children who can listen and understand better do better at school.
3. Reading aloud increases a child’s attention span. Children who are used to sitting down with a parent to listen to a story for several minutes per day have far less difficulty sitting and listening (or working independently) for extended periods of time in class.
4. Reading aloud to your child is a commercial for reading. As Jim Trelease says, you should continue to read to your child right up to High School, because “if you stop advertising, you stop selling”. Parents have an important role to play in keeping their child interested in reading and connecting reading with pleasure, so that reading becomes and remains something that children and teenagers want to do.
5. Parents should be reading books to children that are above the child’s independent reading level. This lets you expose your child to more advanced concepts than they would be able to read about themselves. It also means you can use books as a way to stimulate discussions with your child about complex issues. Reading a book about a child who is getting bullied or a teenager whose friends convince him to try smoking might help you spark a discussion about these issues at home, for example. As Trelease says, “there is really complicated, serious stuff going on that kids are ready to hear and understand, even if they can’t read at that level yet.”
And the final reason for reading aloud to your child is just simply because it’s wonderful. As these photos of two of our wonderful staff members show, reading aloud to your child and watching her face light up... is simply, beautiful.
You can send in your ‘storytime selfies’ to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll display them on our walls and display screens.
Matthiessen, Connie. "Reading Aloud Benefits Even Older Kids." Parenting. Great Schools, 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 29 Sept. 2016. <http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/read-aloud-to-children/>.
Trelease, Jim. The Read-aloud Handbook. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print
For more information, book suggestions, posters, bookmarks, reading trackers and more (including a range of research on why reading aloud is so important), see: http://www.readaloud.org/index.html