Why should you read aloud to your children?
Sarah Brown, Librarian, Downtown Library
Every year, research continues to highlight how reading is a fundamental building block to learning. Literacy can impact graduation rates, earning potential, justice-involvement, and even health outcomes. The simple act of reading to your children is one of the easiest ways you can set them up for success. There are many documented benefits, but they can all fall within three categories: language, connection, and socio-emotional.
Children acquire the bulk of their early language skills through listening. From birth, reading to your children allows them to pick up the different sounds words make and how language flows, which helps them when they begin speaking. As children grow older, being able to follow along in a book while being read to, builds a connection between written and spoken words, increases vocabulary, and helps develop fluency once they begin to read. A great place to start is by reading picture books to your children. The pictures will draw their interest and studies have shown that picture books contain 70% more unique words than what children hear through normal conversation, so they can significantly increase their vocabulary by listening to them.
Children are not the only ones receiving the benefits of reading together. The quality time spent reading allows parents to create happy memories and strengthen the bond with their children. Having dedicated time to read to your children also helps everyone to decompress and interact outside of the hustle and bustle of the day. This time of togetherness can give children the opportunity to share their worries or feelings in a safe place. Reading aloud, especially a variety of books, also aids children in discovering where their interests lie and shows them the joy in reading. This can be even more important for neurodivergent kids. Being read to allows them access to books they wouldn’t have otherwise and without the stress that can come with learning to read on their own.
Books are a terrific way for children to learn about others and explore the world. When children hear stories about how characters navigate obstacles or see the world, they learn how to adapt those behaviors into their own lives. They also offer the opportunity for parents to delve into different topics with their children. For instance, choosing a book that focuses on certain emotions can help your child to learn how to recognize and process their own big feelings. Sitting down to listen to a book even helps with basic things like increasing children's attention spans, learning how to control their own behavior, and soothing anxiety.
It can sometimes feel awkward or intimidating if you are not used to reading aloud. So here are a few things to keep in mind.
Start early, even newborns can receive positive benefits from being read to.
Add it to your routine.
Let your children choose the books.
It is okay to read the same book over and over. It still provides the same benefits.
You can read any book to your kids if you deem it appropriate, not just picture books.
Even after kids can read to themselves, keep going!
Asking questions about the story or having your child guess what they think will happen next, is an effective way to take their learning a step further. This helps with comprehension, understanding the theme of the book, and critical thinking.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Do silly voices for each character, get stuffed animals to act out the scenes, sing, or create games based on the book. Let your children’s imaginations run wild!
Be a good role model. Children are more likely to want to read if they see their parents reading often.
Remember, if you are having fun and reading with your child, you can’t go wrong!