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Keep Reading Aloud to the Kids (It’s Worth It)

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Jean Kuo Lee

Staff Writer

Jean Kuo Lee is a writer from California with a B.A. in English from UCLA, a former career in interior design, and a current calling to homeschool her children. She writes for parents and kids on several blogs with publications forthcoming. To contact her or to see more of her work, visit Twitter: @JeanKuoLee

I’ve spent at least 2,000 hours reading aloud to my kids in the last six years.

My voice has gone hoarse doing all that reading aloud. Doing dramatic voices is my thing. My husband and I have even fought over who would get to read the most scrumpdiddlyumptious chapters in the Roald Dahl on our family’s agenda for the night.

We’ve read a lot together as a family: board books, picture books, easy readers, chapter books, middle grade, nonfiction, classics, new releases. I’m actually looking forward to YA and grownup books once they’re teenagers, although I might spare my voice and just read in tandem.

We are serious about literacy here. That’s why we prioritize reading aloud, and why teachers and librarians make time for that delicious activity in classrooms and at storytime.

Reading Aloud is the Single Most Important Activity for Reading Success

According to the experts who wrote Learning To Read And Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices For Young Children, reading aloud to kids is “the single most important activity for reading success.”

Yes, it helps to have books in the home, and it helps every child to increase access to those books. But let’s not overlook the simple act of just scheduling that storytime.

According to Reading Rockets, reading aloud to kids boosts interest in books and in being a reader. It shows them what a pleasure books are. Reading becomes a rewarding activity rather than a mandatory assignment for school. If you can get the kid to love reading—if you can just get them to catch the reading bug—then you’re setting them up for future success, because reading lays the foundation for achievement. Reading Rockets says that reading aloud also solidifies the connection between reading and meaning. It pulls children up to a higher reading level than they could attain if reading independently, and it exposes them to a wide array of ideas, vocabulary and language patterns.

The Read-Aloud HandbookReading aloud to kids can do that much? Yes, it can, and more. Expert educator Jim Trelease has been touting the benefits since 1979 in his book The Read-aloud Handbook. It’s still a popular book today and continues to inspire us and remind us what’s important.  Recently, families have gobbled up all the advice in Sarah Mackenzie’s book, The Read-aloud Family. New generations of readers are being initiated into the book-reading culture, and families would be wise to take it seriously, especially in the digital age.

Besides, what’s a parent not to love about having a beautiful, bookish relationship with their kids?

Reading Together Benefits Everyone

The truth is, reading aloud to kids and having a book club culture at home is about way more than literacy and educational success, at least in my home. It’s fabulous that a read-aloud book club culture benefits my kids, but really, it’s a big leg up for me. Because here’s the thing: parenting is really hard. (I’m actually a homeschooling mom, which is parenting on steroids, and doubly difficult). But you know what makes it all enjoyable?

That’s right: reading books together. They help me parent and make me a better parent than I would be otherwise. Reading books together provides an opening into a myriad of topics to address every crisis that a family could face. When you read with your kid, you are creating family cohesion. You’re strengthening your family.

Our book culture also stimulates me intellectually so I’m not bored by my children. It makes connecting with the kids a piece of cake. And bonding over books is the best! Dinnertime conversation is interesting as we talk about the latest read-aloud and share what we’re reading individually. Book nerds together!