I was recently browsing my Facebook newsfeed when I stumbled upon a read-aloud math problem. “What if you read aloud just every other day in 2020? What if you read aloud only about 10 minutes every other day in 2020? That would be a lot. It all adds up.”
It does add up, just 10 minutes of reading aloud every other day adds up to 30 hours of reading aloud. At A One-Room Schoolhouse, we have 90 HOURS of read-aloud time scheduled into our school year.
You read that right… 90 hours! On top of that, our homework policy is comprised of two elements: reading and playing. So, why so much reading?
Benefits of Reading Aloud
Improved Language Skills
Kids who are read to have improved language skills. When children experience an engaging, language-rich interaction it helps them develop communication skills, patience, empathy, and literacy. They build better phonemic awareness, improve their vocabulary, refine listening skills, and strengthen their reading comprehension.
Jim Trelease, author of The New York Times Bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook stated: “The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (22,000 students) found that beginning in kindergarten, children who had been read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness (phonics) than did children who were read to less often and were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading readiness.”
When children are read to, especially when they are young they feel nurtured and well attended. Since 80% of a child’s brain is formed during their first three years of life, reading to a young child has positive effects throughout their lifetime.
Research has shown this by performing brain scans. What did they find?
“In preschool children listening to stories, greater home reading exposure is positively associated with activation of brain areas supporting mental imagery and narrative comprehension, controlling for household income. These neural biomarkers may help inform eco-bio-developmental models of emergent literacy.”
When we snuggle up with our children and a good book happy memories are created. That feeling of closeness and security is forever embedded in your child’s memory. These experiences will last a lifetime as a child feels nurtured by their parents and literature.
In a recent Time Magazine article, it was reported that even reports that reading to newborns in the NICU increased bonding. As parents read to their infant babies they felt more attached to their little ones and felt more like normal parents.
Reading Aloud Closes The Gap
No other intervention has been found to be more effective at closing the gap for at-risk students than being read to. Really.
Hart and Risley’s landmark study Meaningful Differences showed wealthy children heard 45 million words by age four, working-class heard 26 million, and the child in poverty heard just 13 million.
Reading to a child helps close that gap. Jim Trelease stated that reading aloud “gives the at-risk child a ‘head’ start, especially important since most instruction in school for the first four years is oral—the teacher talks the lesson to the class. The larger the vocabulary, the better the child understands the teacher and the lesson.”
Furthermore, in the landmark report “Becoming a Nation of Readers” from 1985 it states, “the single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
When we read aloud to a child we expose them to new authors, writing styles, and literary genres. In Melissa Taylor’s article The Importance of Reading Aloud to Big Kids she states “Reading aloud can get kids hooked on a new author or series of books. Once a child falls in love with the story or author, it’s hard to hold them back from reading it on their own.”
The world is full of amazing stories, poems, and facts. When we read them to our children we open their minds to the world.
Quantity and Quality
Both quantity and quality matter. Yes, it is important to read to your child and the quantity of time spent reading really does matter, but don’t forget about quality.
If anything has become apparent about reading to your children it is this: what you read to your children sticks. It becomes part of their hearts and minds. So, choose wisely.
Jenny Phillips at The Good And The Beautiful is passionate about this. She wrote: “Do you really know what is in the books children are reading and how it is affecting them? Books are powerful, but they have been changing in the past century and in turn, changing the character of our children, the strength of our families, and our communities.”
Check out Jenny’s powerful message about choosing the best books in her vlog “Be Brave About Books.” This is a powerful message about the importance of both quantity and quality.
As parents and educators, we are faced with so much information. We are constantly bombarded with what we should do as parents and educators. Books become trendy, websites blare new information at us, and social media gives us thousands of options.
We know little for sure about raising and teaching kids. We do know two things for sure about raising and teaching kids: read to them and go outside and play. Those two things work. Always. Period.
What will you read to your kids this year?