Reading aloud to children fills them with an appreciation for books that can last a lifetime.
The importance of reading aloud to children starts at a very young age. Even for newborns and babies this bonding time through books helps the young brain to develop. Reading books aloud also provides pleasure to the reader as it provides a break from the everyday worries and duties.
Sharing books with children and reading aloud to them is good for them, good for us and good for the future. Read on to learn about the illiteracy problem in the US and tips for reading aloud to children.
The crisis of illiteracy starts with the basics.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, in 2022, average reading scores were lower for both fourth- and eighth-grade students compared to 2019: scores were lower by 3 point at both grades. It also shows that 30% of all eighth graders are reading below the basic level of literacy.
Illiteracy can destroy lives and ruin many opportunities in the workforce.
As part of my day job, I give applicants a basic writing and reading test which is part of the hiring process. This test is based on 10th grade English with a vocabulary section and a reading comprehension section.
I find it incomprehensible how many young people, most are between 21 and 35 years of age, fail this basic reading/writing test. This is only the first step in a long process but they will never have the chance to prove themselves hirable, even though they might be good at the job we’re hiring for.
What can we DO to help our young people?
Let’s begin with the basics: a book, a baby and a person to read to them.
Even before a child learns how to crawl, it can appreciate books and being read to. Books with bright colors attract the baby’s eyes and nursery rhymes introduce the rhythm of basic word and language in general.
When you read to babies at home, know that they love to gnaw and will probably drool all over your book while you’re holding and reading to them. Get sturdy board books for babies, you will treasure those little bite marks and drool spots on the books later in life.
Board Books for Babies to include in your home library:
My First Book of Nursery Rhymes by Sandra Rescek
Goodnight Moon (one of our own kids all time favorite)
- Counting Kisses by Karen Katz
As babies grow older the stories and poems you read to them should become more and more sophisticated. Young children love to hear the same stories over and over again. But, as a reader it gets a little boring after a while.
Be sure to keep plenty of books for all age groups on-hand.
You can either purchase books for your home library, get them from your local library or have your little one listen to read along books online. There are many wonderful channels on YouTube that offer videos for reading aloud to children. If you’re pressed for time or just need a little breather, then this is great alternative instead of having kids watch cartoons or tv.
Tips for reading aloud to children.
Your Voice & Drama – The key to keeping children engaged while reading is your voice and the ability to dramatize the story. Never read in a ‘deadpan’ voice or read too fast. Pace yourself, point to the words and pause to add emphasis.
Throw yourself into the moment and make a performance out of reading by ‘throwing your voice’ or using different voices (higher or lower) for the characters. Bring out your inner actor.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t like the sound of your own voice. It’s perfectly normal and nothing to fret about. Your young listener will love your voice, especially if you make silly noises, and you will never find a better audience.
The more you read aloud, the more your inner ear will get used to hearing yourself.
The Best Time To Read – Children love and thrive on routine! Try to make time every night by reading a story before bed, this will help your child to wind down after a busy day of learning and exploring.
But really, any time is a good time to read a book. When children are overstimulated, stressed out or throwing a tantrum, is a good time to sit them down and open a book or have the child listen to a book aloud. Offer a healthy snack or small treat and your child will associate this with a pleasurable experience.
Family Time – It is a great idea to have older brothers and sisters read to the younger ones. This gives them practice in their own reading abilities while they set an excellent example. A single child can read aloud to you, his or her pet hamster, a stuffed doll or action figure, the neighbors dog, grand-parents or an aunt or uncle. Reading as a family is a lot of fun and even 5 – 10 minutes a day will help deepen the bond between family members.
As children grow older, we tend to abandon these special reading times together.
This is a happy and sad development that happens to all parents. On one hand we are super excited that the child is finally reading on their own, on the other hand, we miss the closeness and pleasure reading aloud to a child brings.
We recently started a YouTube channel to promote reading
and to stay connected to our grandson:
Our grandson lives on the other side of the country and his parents are very busy with work and everyday life. What better way for them to instill a love for books? Now they can look up one of our read aloud books when they’re too exhausted to read to little Jaxsen themselves and he will hear a familiar voice.
Let us know what you think of our read aloud video series. We would love to hear your opinion in the comments below.