One of my fondest memories of childhood is being curled up in my pjs with my father reading to me at bedtime. Even when I was a reader myself, I’d still look forward to that bedtime story from Dad. Years later my mother told me that my father disliked reading, especially out loud. He didn’t feel it was a strength of his and was embarrassed for others to hear him. So why did he do it? Why not have my mom lead the stories each night or just skip it altogether? He did it because it was a true bonding experience. It filled us both with peaceful and pleasant feelings. It piqued my own interest in books, in voice modulation and in using my imagination. My husband and I read with our own children for the very same reasons.
A 1985 report by the Commission on Reading stated that “The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” According to a 2013 survey by RIF (Reading is Fundamental), 87% of parents of children ages eight and younger say they read with their children, however only 33% of parents read with them on a daily basis. Fifty percent of parents go on to admit that their children spend more time watching TV or playing video games than they do with books. (Doherty, 2013).
Most parents, myself included, will admit as their child becomes an independent reader, regular read alouds decrease. Times are busy and your children are developing reading skills and routines that may no longer include you. It is easy to get away from a reading routine that you may have established when your child was younger. Just because your school age child doesn’t need you to read to him/her anymore, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. In fact, there are several reasons why you should still read aloud with your child. Read aloud so that your child can:
- Expand his vocabulary
- Explore social and moral issues
- Talk about character, setting and plot
- Make connections between what she read and her own life
- Discover which authors he likes and what writing styles he enjoys
- Gain exposure to a variety of styles, structures and genres
- Be motivated to read more on her own
Helping your child get the most of this experience
Devise a schedule that honors your child’s independent reading time. Perhaps you could do a read aloud a few nights a week or for fifteen to twenty minutes after your child reads on his/her own. Make it special by picking a relaxed place that will help children continue to associate the family read aloud with warm and pleasant feelings. Encourage active conversations during your time together. Before you even open the book discuss what you read previously and make predictions about what will happen next. Invite your child to share in the reading process with you. If the text is not too challenging invite your child to alternate reading with you; if the text is above her reading level make sure you summarize or adapt to help her comprehension. When you are done reading for the night, discuss connections between your own lives and the lives of the characters in the book. Don’t just summarize what was read, but listen to and respect your child’s opinion about the contents of the book. Share your thoughts as well.
Children of all ages benefit from shared reading experiences. Your time, interest and attention are invaluable to your children. Put on your pajamas, grab a cozy spot and rekindle a tradition.
Koralek, Derry. Reading Aloud with Children of All Ages. www.rif.org
Doherty, Olivia. New Survey: Only One in Three Parents Read Bedtime Stories with their Children Every Night… June 2013 www.rif.org