March is National Read Aloud Month, a time to reflect on the importance of reading aloud.
When was the last time you listened to someone read aloud? Do you remember reading with your family before bed as a child? What about your favorite elementary school memory – does it involve your teacher reading aloud? Chances are that if you are an adult who considers yourself a reader, you were read aloud to frequently growing up.
When children see adults read they are more likely to become readers. When students share positive reading experiences with adults such as reading aloud, they learn to associate reading with support, kindness, and joy.
The Importance of Reading Aloud
Reading aloud and talking about what you read encourages social-emotional learning, empathy, and conversation skills, even in adulthood. Once we leave elementary school, working-age adults often forget how much skill is needed to read aloud effectively. The more one reads aloud – no matter the age – the deeper the connections made, and the stronger the vocabulary learned. Fluency, vocabulary, and social-emotional learning is not just for kids! There is an abundance of research to support the benefits of reading aloud at all age.
- Increases attention spans
- Makes information easier to remember and recall
- Is effective for vocabulary development
- Develops empathy
- Helps children stay connected emotionally with their caregivers
Reading aloud everyday is the single most important thing you can do to prepare your child to learn.
How to Read Aloud Effectively
Read Aloud with the Youngest Readers (0-4 years)
The youngest readers learn book skills best by osmosis. The beginning readers’ skills are mostly physical: how to hold a book, where to look, interpreting pictures, finding words, and turning the pages. While reading aloud, you can help kids enjoy the experience by making it comfortable – sit in a lap, snuggle up, and listen. And, for the very youngest readers, tasting and touching the pages makes for a multi-sensory experience! For the 0-4 crowd, choose board books with colorful pictures and simple stories. The younger the reader, the simpler the book. Don’t be alarmed if the littles want to talk about the book, point to pictures, and reread a familiar story over and over – this all leads to deeper learning. A child is never too young to learn that books are fun and engaging; enjoying books can be a shared family value.
Pick a book to read!
Can you turn the page?
Point to the _____. (Mommy, Daddy, doggie, water, whatever objects your child interacts with regularly)
How do we sit when we’re ready to read?
Can you point to the words?
Reading with Primary Readers (5-10 years old)
With children in this age range, comprehension is key. Most children have transitioned from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn,’ meaning that they may be able to read the words on the page, while it’s the larger conceptual knowledge that they’ll be held accountable for in school.
How can you support this work?
- Read aloud to your middle graders and ask questions, look things up on wikipedia, and make connections to what’s happening in their home lives.
- Read things aloud just for fun: shopping lists, permission slips, signs, magazine titles at the grocery store, ambient text in the world.
Research has shown that kids learn better when there’s an adult actively involved. Remember, you’re never too old to enjoy a before-bed book. At this age, choose chapter books that deal with larger social-emotional issues. Stop at the end of every chapter or while reading to discuss the themes that come up.
What would you have done in this situation?
Is this character trustworthy/honest/motivated/kind?
Would you make different decisions? Why or why not?
Do you connect your book to your life? To other books? To the world-at-large?
Older Readers, Harder Texts (10 years+)
Children can comprehend texts aurally that are up to 3 grade levels than where they are – your 5th grader can understand and absorb 8th grade texts if they’re read aloud. As kids age, they benefit from the routine of reading; it’s a daily, enjoyable habit. “Reading aloud also improves a kid’s long-term reading success. It has been noticed that kids who are read aloud end up having an upper edge because of the reading ritual. Since it improves their vocabulary, reading, and writing skills, they are bound to perform much better academically.” writes Sandra Cobain of Best for the Kids. Reading aloud and talking about what’s read sets students up for academic success.
Set a screen-free night: everyone reads!
Share your reading life with your kids: articles, news, work papers, whatever it is – talk about it!
Go to the public library and check out a stack of books. Go through them together!
Ask older kids to read aloud to younger siblings or friends
Explore graphic novels, serial stories, and nonfiction articles from the internet about popular topics. Fortnite or Minecraft anyone?
Audiobooks – Read Aloud for Adults
Are you in a reading slump, where no matter what you try reading isn’t holding your interest? Never have time to sit down and read? Do you commute yet can’t read in a moving vehicle? Then audiobooks might be for you! Most public libraries offer digital audiobook downloads for free – you can access a audiobook, from your phone, all without visiting the physical library.
Reading aloud has benefits for any age and is a fun activity to connect with others.
WITS literacy mentors make up the largest volunteer corps serving Chicago Public Schools.