We all know how important it is to read to our children, right? We want to raise up happy little readers, and so from babyhood to school age, we eagerly read, read, read.
However, once they get to the age where they can start reading for themselves, it can seem like it's the right time to hang up the old 'Read Aloud Hat' (What, your family doesn't have a reading hat!? Ha!). Because we know much they need or want to practice their new reading 'skillz', we let them read aloud to us instead of us reading to them. Or we even encourage them to just read silently to themselves. Our job is done, right? They can READ, after all!
It's all too easy to pass that reading baton on to our kids after five or six years or so of dedicated service, huh? We might prefer to still read to them (reading and snuggles each night is the best!!), but we start to think we are doing them a disservice by not letting them practice their own reading. But guess what - there are a bunch of good reasons to continue to read to our kiddos. There are rich benefits to reading to them from birth... until they can read to themselves... and then keeping on reading to them until they leave home.... or at least beg you to stop, haha ;)
My daughter is six and a half and quite a confident reader these days - she is often keen to just read to herself! So, as much as I love reading to her, at times it has been tempting to just encourage her to go read to herself at the end of a loooong day. That's why I have been reflecting back on all the reasons I want to keep up both types of reading, as reminder to myself. I thought I would share some of these reasons here! Some of these facts were picked up from one of my favourite books, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (not an affiliate link, just a book I love! I highly recommend to anyone wanting to encourage a love of reading in your home or classroom)....
6 reasons why we should (still!) read to kids who can read to themselves....
- BONDING. Reading aloud to our kids at any age continues to promote close bonding, the benefits of quality time and the joy of shared experiences.
- ADVERTISING. Yes, advertising - a good thing in this case! Every time we read aloud to a child, we are giving a 'commercial' about the pleasure of reading. You, as their (awesome!) parent are a huge influence. They think you are pretty cool - even if they are at an age where they won't admit it! Every read aloud is an ad for the simple pleasure of reading. And a child/tween/teen who believes reading is fun will read, and learn to love to read :)
- STRETCHING. Children can listen and comprehend on a much higher level than they can read. Continuing to read aloud exposes them to more words, more concepts, more complex, interesting and engaging stories than they could read for themselves. This enhances attention span and also encourages them to stretch their own reading abilities - when they want to keep reading a book they may not have felt interested or confident enough to tackle before. Fun fact: Reading and listening skills tend to begin to converge around 14 years of age.
- EXPOSURE. The more we read aloud from rich texts, the more our children are exposed to a wider vocabulary and correct grammar forms. Written text is much more complex and structured than spoken/conversational language, so the more exposure kids get to it, the better off they are. Not to mention hearing the correct pronunciation for words they may be mispronouncing in their heads when they read. Rather than correction, let the right form simply seep in through listening! All those words and phrasings pour into listening ears who can then apply it in their own writing and reading. Remember that grammar is more caught than taught!
- ALL BENEFIT. Kids, teens and (let's be honest) adults don't really read as much as they could. Reading is sooooo enriching on so many levels, a little more reading is good for everyone - including us, the parents! :) The shared learning has double the benefit!
- INFLUENCE. Sharing a good book together is a wonderful way to continue to connect even through the tween and teen years when they can start to gravitate to outside influences (peers, TV, internet). You can introduce books that deal with sensitive issues, moral dilemmas or other subjects you want to open up a dialogue about with your child. If possible, read together one on one, which gives your child a comfortable space to talk about any thoughts or feelings that emerge after sharing the book. Keep connected through reading!
Now, does this mean we only read to our kids and don't encourage them to read to us, or read silently to themselves? Of course not! In a literacy rich household, ideally there is a mix of all three. As in reality, we don't have unlimited amounts of time (nor energy!!!), this could mean you include a little of all three elements each day. Another option is alternating each night (e.g. one night you read to them, the next night they read to you, the next night they read to themselves). No doubt you will find your own groove!
The important thing to remember is that just because a child can read for themselves, doesn't mean there aren't still numerous and rich benefits to you reading to them. So grab a book and a kid, snuggle up and read away :)
PS I would love to hear recommendations of your favourite 'read alouds' for ages 6+. Post them in the comments and I will continue to edit/add to this list of some of our family's favourite books so far. We are always looking for new read-alouds and it would be great to build a good resource list for everyone!
- The Chronicles of Narnia series / CS Lewis
- Milly Molly Mandy series / Joyce Lankester Brisley
- Enid Blyton - any of her hundreds of books!
- Harry Potter series / JK Rowling (as age appropriate)
- Little House on the Prairie / Laura Ingalls Wilder
Adding to the list as per YOUR suggestions...(keep 'em coming!)
- Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
- Anything by Roald Dahl
- Pippi Longstocking
- Charlotte's Web
- The Secret Garden
- Peter Pan
- Dot and the Kangaroo
- Noddy series
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Blinky Bill
- The Magic Pudding
- Little Women
PPS If you are interested in reading more about building a literacy-rich home, you can read here about the benefits of 'silent reading' for the whole family!