Most parents are aware of the importance of reading aloud to their children, and bedtime stories are often a favorite ritual. The practice of reading aloud, however, falls by the wayside as kids become more independent readers and schedules become busier. Reading out loud to older children and tweens, however, is hugely important. Here are 7 reasons why reading aloud to older kids matters, and matters a great deal.
1. Children listen on a different level than they read. Jim Trelease, the author of the respected Read-Aloud Handbook, told GreatSchools.net, "A child's reading level doesn't catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. You can and should be reading seventh-grade books to fifth-grade kids. They'll get excited about the plot, which is motivation to keep reading. A fifth-grader can enjoy a more complicated plot than she can read herself, and reading aloud is really going to hook her."
2. Life Lessons. Not only do you find life lessons in books, they can be easier for a child to internalize in that format as opposed
to you telling them. Trelease said, "When you talk about a book together, it's not a lecture, it's more like a coach looking at a film with his players, going over the plays to find out what went right and what went wrong." Reading aloud can also foster discussion about social issues, beliefs and feelings.
3. Enjoyment. Apparently, my own enjoyment of reading aloud is a good reason to keep doing it.
"The single most important condition for literacy learning is the presence of mentors who are joyfully literate people." - Shirley Brice Heath, sociolinguist
Reading aloud is a chance to introduce kids to fun books, to genres different from what they read in school and to new authors whom they may not find in the school curriculum. If kids see reading only as an assignment or drudgery, they're not likely to become lifelong readers. If they see a parent enjoying reading, the chances of them enjoying it too go up. Also, by reading aloud, parents can be great salesmen of both reading and particular books.
4. Reading aloud with older children helps builds vocabulary. Researchers found that "books contain many words, especially the more sophisticated words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children’s books contain 50% more rare words than prime-time television or even college students’ conversations." Defining a word can be easier when it is heard in context. This can be particularly helpful for tweens, who can struggle to put their intense emotions into words
5. Physical closeness. Reading aloud requires proximity of the listener and reader. It's tough to pull off from across the house, or even across the room. Although you're not as likely to snuggle as your child ages, the closeness that comes from reading together can be comforting and even wonderful side benefit for both parties.
6. Sense of security. I remember hearing a while back that it is most important for a parent to make a child feel safe, and that comes before anything else, even making them feel loved. I'm convinced that reading with a parent, at any age, conveys a sense of security. I think the physical closeness is one reason why, but I also think there is
7. Sense of belonging. The tween and even teen years can be marked by a sense of feeling like you don't belong, whether or not that is the case. Often, great literature and wonderful writing can make the reader and listener feel like they are understood, and reading a book about someone else who feels alone can make the world a bit less lonely.
We still read aloud with my tween together most evenings before bed. Usually we alternate who does the reading, although parent do usually read more. If we don't have time for a book chapter, we do a few short poems. I worried that perhaps it was too juvenile a practice, but a little research revealed the opposite. I love that there are reasons other than my own enjoyment that the tradition is a good one to continue well into the future.
Here are some articles with read aloud suggestions:
- Three Great Books to Read Aloud to Your Tweens & Teens (Yes, you heard right)
- Read Aloud America Composite Book List
5 Best Read-Alouds for Middle School
Middle School Read Alouds
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