Once upon a time, I figured once my children hit a stage where reading was as natural as breathing that one of my many Mommy jobs would be done! I would be finished with reading aloud to them. Why wouldn’t I be? They could handle it quite well on their own. Now I’m free to do…. other things! Like, I don’t know… laundry! Yeah LAUNDRY! Ok, really? Laundry is better than reading to my kids? Not so much! Truthfully though, in all of my fancy education classes all the way through my Master’s Degree no one ever talked about reading to children AFTER they were solid reader’s in their own right. We only talked about reading aloud as a phenomenal tool for developing everything from language skills, prereading skills, fluency, and of course emotional bonding. It never dawned on me that there could be considerable benefits to reading aloud possibly forever! Also, I never imagined I’d LIKE it either! But I do! I really do!
Let’s talk about some benefits of reading aloud to older, independent readers.
- It inspires their reading! It is quite an efficient way to get my children interested in a new series or introduce my kiddos to a new author. I often choose books to read to them that they might not have chosen to read on their own either because they view the topic as outside of their interest, or because they are intimidated by the size of the book perhaps. What usually happens is they enjoy that book so much that they either reread the book on their own after we are through, or they begin devouring other books in the series or by the same author.
- Reading aloud gives me a chance to expand their vocabulary. What do you as an adult do when you are engrossed in a story, but yet you stumble upon a word you aren’t exactly familiar with? You do the same thing children do, you try to guess at the meaning based on context, and then you move on. If you figure it out, great! If you don’t, I doubt you typically take the time to stop and look it up. When Mommy reads aloud, Mommy will stop and discuss new words. Truthfully my boys usually stop ME if they are unsure. We’ve learned words together like unconscious and contentious together.
- Reading aloud gives me a chance to discuss hard topics with my children in a very non-confrontational way. It isn’t uncommon for the characters in fictional books to find themselves in some trouble one way or another. I often pause and ask my children simple questions like, “Do you think he did the right thing?” or “What would you have if this were you?” Boy can those simple questions get the conversation rolling. Then Mommy has a great chance to spout off to incredible wisdom (LOL) about the situation. Truthfully it’s usually my children who surprise me with their wisdom. It’s a beautiful way to pass along our family ethics and values. Sometimes we get side tracked by these conversations. But they are worth every minute. Once in a while, when someone in our home does something naughty, we even relate it back to some event in a book we’d previously read together to reinforce the lesson we need to learn. These can be pretty meaningful moments in our home.
- Reading aloud can help keep us busy! Books are pretty portable. Ebooks are EXTREMELY portable. I often bring our current read aloud along whenever I think we might end up hanging around waiting for something. The doctor’s office is a prime example. A book or kindle is a lot easier to tote around than a bunch of toys! I’ll sneak in little bits of reading while waiting on Daddy to fill up the van at the gas station or run into the store to grab that thing we need. I use it to transition us between activities too. If the kids are getting anxious for dinner but it isn’t quite ready yet… I can read to help pass the time. Usually, they ask ME to bring our book… even to the park! Yep, I’ve read to my children as we sat together on an empty play-scape. How fun is that?
- Reading aloud can help children develop their ability to delay gratification. Truthfully, it takes Mommy longer to read a book aloud than they could read it on their own. Reading aloud is slower. Plus, I only have so much time in a day. If I handed the book over they could surely finish it faster. The beauty is in the slowness sometimes. All of us can soak up the story! We can pause, think about and discuss what is going on. We can debate about what the author meant, how the character felt, or what we think they should have done. When you read quickly, alone, few take time for any of these things. I know I don’t! PLUS! It’s quite the lesson when Mommy closes the book, and we all have to wait until NEXT time to find out what happens next! Oh, the GROANS! I love it!
- Reading aloud can be used as a reward! What’s better than food, candy, or screen time? A lot of time it can be read aloud time with Mommy! Yes, if you step into our home, you might hear me say… “If you guys don’t stop fighting I am NOT going to read to you tonight!” If we are in the middle of an excellent book, the fighting STOPS! Instantly! Like magic! No one wants to have to wait too long to see what happens next!
- Reading aloud with your children can be an excellent bonding experience! This has got to be my favorite thing about reading aloud. When you read a book together, you experience the joys, heartbreaks, traumas, sorrows, and laughter of all of the characters together. I have enjoyed fits of laughter, and nearly painful tears right alongside my boys. I think I will forever hold the memory sitting on the couch with my seven year old smooshed in my lap, the two of us pouring our eyes out as we experienced the moment Charlotte died in Charlotte’s Web. We comforted each other, and then we rejoiced together as Charlotte’s many babies were born. What an afternoon that was! All because of a book!
If you have any good suggestions for excellent read alouds, PLEASE share them in the comments! I’m always looking for new ideas, and so are my readers!