I cannot express how great my excitement was when my children began reading their own bedtime stories. Don’t get me wrong...I loved those precious memories of storytime, but on the other hand, my kids wanted to hear Goodnight Train exactly 19 times before bed every single night. After a long day, it was pretty exhausting by the time we got around to the seventh nightly reading.
It’s easy to push for that transition when children can read to themselves without your help. Believe me, I get it.
Yet reading aloud is still valuable, even in the older grades. Perhaps I should even say especially in the older grades. Here are a few reasons we need to keep reading aloud to our children even after they have become independent readers.
1. Reading Aloud Develops Fluency
The best readers are often the readers who were read aloud to the most.
There is something about hearing the English language read fluently that registers in our child’s brain and allows them to perfect their fluency as well. Most children are not necessarily fluent readers by the time they are able to read independently. You might be surprised to hear your independent reader skip punctuation and get hung up on a few words.
Just because a child can read solo doesn’t necessarily mean they are reading fluently.
Continuing to read aloud to them bridges the gap between reading independently and reading fluently. The more they hear your pauses and emotion, the more they will begin to work pause and emotion into their reading. The benefit to fluency is that fluency helps them comprehend what they are reading. Comprehension is our goal.
2. Reading Aloud Develops Vocabulary
Did you know that most readers tend to skip words that they don’t know? Don’t believe me?
When was the last time you paused to look up a word in the dictionary as you were reading?
Don’t worry, I can’t remember either! We are generally content with skipping a word rather than digging in to figure out the meaning.
However, when we read aloud to our kids, we are consciously reminding ourselves to look for vocabulary building opportunities. We are inviting our children to begin a conversation about words and ideas.
“What does that word mean?” are sweet words to the reading-aloud homeschool parent. Those words are the cue for us to pull out the big dictionary or ask Google. Those words invite us to store that word in our vocabulary bank and use it another day. Reading aloud is a tool to develop vocabulary.
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3. Reading Aloud Models Good Comprehension Skills
I used to devour book series. I read the Ramona series as fast as lightning. I can tell you that I rarely stopped to think about whether I was comprehending the storyline, and I am sure that the author’s purpose for writing the books never crossed my mind. While I still loved my experience reading the Ramona books without thinking very deeply about them, I also wish that had thought about them a little more.
I realize now that Beverly Cleary was making a case for a child’s perspective on life. She was giving us a glimpse into the mind of a child and showing us the world through Ramona’s eyes. It was funny, because after I read Ramona the Pest as an adult, I found myself being much more patient with my children when they inevitably made mistakes. There is almost always more to books than meets the eye, and it is our job to dig into the goodness of author’s purpose, prediction, plot, and the many other facets of literacy.
Reading aloud gives us the chance to model excellent reading techniques.
While we read aloud, we stop every so often and discuss the books. This is something we don’t really do very often when we are reading independently. While we may not need these skills quite as much in series reading, be assured that our kids will need them as they get older and begin higher level literature courses.
4. Reading Aloud Builds Bonds
As a mother of four children, I have plenty to do, so I tend to multitask during family movie night. During those nights in the living room when I'm trying to merge family time with productivity, one of my children will turn to me and excitedly say, “Mom, did you see that? It was so cool how he just….”
And I am stuck, not having a clue what they are talking about. I missed out on a moment to connect through movies, and it always makes me sad.
It is a marvelous thing. Reading aloud builds bonds.
So when do we stop reading aloud?
I often think about how in the old days, families would sit around the fireplace and listen to the father read aloud from the Bible. This continued forever, even when the children were out of the house and on their own, simply because there was likely only one copy of the Bible.
There is something special about connecting over literature, and there is no age limit to those precious opportunities for connection. I believe that reading aloud can be enjoyed by all ages, anytime. So don’t stop. Keep reading aloud as long as you can.
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