Even if they can read and especially if they hate reading
Who needs convincing that reading aloud to children is a good idea? Not many people, it seems. According to Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, 77% of parents with children aged between 0 and 5 say they started reading to their child before they turned one. Unfortunately, that percentage drops significantly after age 5, despite both parents and children saying that they enjoy reading together. By that stage, children begin to read by themselves and perhaps parents feel that their job is done. Actually, there are many reasons to keep reading aloud to children even if they are independent readers. And for children who struggle to read, even more so. Kids with literacy difficulties and reluctant readers risk missing out on the many advantages of reading.
But, what are those benefits?
Kids like nothing more than time shared together. 87% of children aged 6-11 and 82 % of parents say they enjoy reading together. That is reason enough to keep reading!
Books provide opportunities to learn facts, expand knowledge, discuss and think critically about things.
Researchers say that reading fiction helps children develop empathy and understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings. Research by Emory University in Atlanta, US, asserts that fiction tricks our brains into thinking we are part of the story. Feeling empathy for characters helps our brains develop the same sensitivity towards real people.
Reading books together supports language and vocabulary building. In my speech pathology practice, I see the difference between children who are exposed to books and children who aren’t. Children with language difficulties who are read to regularly often display better vocabulary and factual knowledge than children who are not. Books are great for learning new words and grammar. Strong oral language skills support decoding and reading comprehension. The opposite is true too: children with low oral vocabulary are often stumped when reading unfamiliar words and this affects their reading accuracy and comprehension.
Books give children exposure to many different text genres: reports, stories, poems, factual recounts, diaries and many more. As children progress throughout primary and secondary school, they learn to write essays, stories and other types of texts. Having regular exposure to different narrative genres provides models that the children can refer to when writing their own texts. One of my literacy students once delighted me by bringing a story she had “written” with her mother, that is, she created the story and her mother transcribed it. The story contained traditional narrative elements as well as vocabulary that was beyond her reading and spelling level. Regular shared reading sessions had enabled her to structure her narrative and to use sophisticated vocabulary.
Books stimulate the imagination and take you beyond the here and now. They make you laugh, cry, empathise, feel excited or furious!
So, parents, keep reading to your children after they turn 5! If your child is an independent reader, they will still enjoy it. And if they hate reading, they’ll still be able to access the magic of books.
Looking for language tips, activities and ideas? This blog is for parents, speech pathologists, teachers, educators and anyone with an interest in speech and language.