We’ve all heard how important it is to read to our kids–but have you ever asked why? We know it helps the younger set identify words and gives them a head start on reading skills, but what else does it do? And, is there a “certain way” we should be reading? What about older children–do we still need to be reading aloud to them? Breezy Mama turned to Kathryn Starke, the founder of Creative Minds Publications and Consulting, for advice.
Why is it so important to read to our children?
When we read to our children, we are teaching them vocabulary, the concept of print, comprehension, word attack skills, and the importance of oral and written communication. We are also exposing children to engaging, entertaining, and educational literature, which leads them to become life long readers.
If a child is read to often, does this mean that they will learn to read at an earlier age?
It is true that children that are read to often develop reading skills at an earlier age since they have been exposed to rhyme, letter sound patterns, and language.
The last I heard the guideline was 15 minutes a day—is this still true?
Yes, 15-20 minutes is the guideline. Today, research says that a child who reads 20 minutes a day will perform on or above grade level in school.
Is there a certain age when reading aloud is no longer beneficial?
We encourage middle and high school teachers to use picture books as readalouds to teach certain concepts or themes since reading aloud is always beneficial. Parents should read books that are at at least a grade level ahead of where their child can read independently; this increases vocabulary and listening comprehension skills.
Once our child knows how to read, is it still as important to read to our children?
Many times, once a child is a self-sufficient, fluent independent reader, he or she does not want a parent to read to them. If you are reading more challenging texts to them, it is beneficial, but it really depends on the child/adult dynamic.
Should we be animated when we read aloud? (Change our voices for different characters, etc)?
Yes, it is essential to show expression and animation when reading. Children are often evaluated on their fluency in school, which includes their reading rate, accuracy, intonation, and expression. Children need to hear all of these components in order for them to know how to do so when they read aloud.
When picking out books to read to our children (for example if we’re at the bookstore or the library) what should we look for?
It’s important to understand that children should read books on their reading level to themselves. When you are reading books aloud to your children, select a book that they cannot read entirely on their own. For example, if you’re child loves reading on a second grade level, you should choose chapter books to read to them.
Is one type of book better than another for reading out loud?
From birth to second grade, it’s better to use picture books and easy readers for reading out loud. Once a child enters third grade, it is better to expose them to chapter books.
What about eBooks? Can this be a substitute to having a real person reading aloud?
eBooks are certainly a better substitution than not reading at all and are helpful and often engaging to children. However, it does not replace the interaction or conversation that naturally happens when someone is reading aloud to you.
Anything you’d like to add?
It is so important our children interested and excited about reading by providing them with a variety of texts, including nursery rhymes, songs, magazines, newspapers, comics, as well as fiction and nonfiction books. Once a child is hooked on reading, he or she will continue to grow as an independent reader.
Kathryn Starke has been an urban elementary school literacy specialist for a decade. She has a BS degree in elementary education and a Master’s degree in Literacy and Culture. She is a children’s author and freelance educational writer. Kathryn is the founder of Creative Minds Publications and Consulting, a global educational company that exemplifies quality literacy instruction for all children. She is available for public speaking engagements as well as trainings/workshops that promote reading.