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Why You Should Read Out Loud to Your Child, Even the Older Ones

The many benefits of reading out loud to children


Every parent knows the joy of introducing their children to books. From those well-loved board books to chapter books and more there is just something amazing about introducing your child to the world of books and watching them cultivate a love of reading.

Reading out loud to your child is more than just entertainment. It has long been known that reading to children out loud in their younger years helps them develop vocabulary and become familiar with words. They learn from stories about how language works, as well as lessons in emotional, social, and other cognitive skills. This goes beyond a classroom and has impacts on their emotional and cognitive development.

Reading is part of children’s cognitive development and helps them build their language skills. Children learn many words from copying us and from our conversations. This is one-way children build their vocabulary, however, in a conversation we often use noticeably short words and do not often speak in full sentences. We do not use our full vocabulary when speaking out loud,  the language of books is far richer and more colorful. Books introduce children to an exciting new language and are presented in complete sentences. Books also contain exciting images and new concepts.

The more complex structure and deeper use of language in books help stimulate children’s visual imagery skills and encourage deeper comprehension. Reading the story out loud, then discussing what happens encourages them to think further about concepts and ideas. Hearing a story out loud encourages and fosters an enjoyment of stories and encourages imagination and creativity.

Often when children start to go to school. reading aloud fizzles out after the first few grades because they can read to themselves. It is a mistake to stop reading to your child out loud as they get older, in fact, the practice can help them develop even greater reading and comprehension abilities in the classroom. Just because a child can read at a certain level does not mean they understand at that same level. A child’s listening level may be much higher than their reading level, and they may enjoy hearing stories in books that are more complex than what they can read to themselves. They can understand and build on higher concepts cognitively than the reading level they happen to test at.

Along with building vocabulary and increasing comprehension reading aloud to children also helps model what fluent reading should sound like. Because children emulate and copy those that are around them, listening to stories out loud can help them develop more fluent reading skills. They will understand cadence, inflection, and how voice changes can convey emotion and so forth.

Reading aloud models how fluent readers sound and demonstrates to children appropriate behaviors and coping skills for all sorts of real-life situations. Whether or not the content or subject matter of a book relates to their own life directly or opens the door to something new, books can teach children how to overcome things they may face in their own lives. It creates a sense of empathy for others and allows children to experience a range of emotions. Reading aloud also aids children in furthering their communication skills by giving them examples of how to talk about their feeling and experiences by relating to the characters in stories.

Another benefit to reading out loud to children at any age is that it builds a bond with their caregiver. Read-aloud time is a special time, no screens, no distractions, just the story and listening to what unfolds. Regardless of the book being read, the time spent connected and focused together strengthens the bond children have with their parents and caregivers.

A study done in 2018 and published in the journal Pediatrics found that reading aloud to children has the potential to help stop and prevent negative behaviors. This applied to aggression, hyperactivity and attention span, and focus.

“Maybe engaging in more reading and play both directly reduces kids’ behavior problems because they’re happier and also makes parents enjoy their child more and view that relationship more positively,” said Adriana Weisleder, one of the study authors, and assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University.

“We think when parents read with their children more, when they play with their children more, the children have an opportunity to think about characters, to think about the feelings of those characters,” added Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, and lead investigator of the study. “They learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult, and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness,” from The New York Times.

We live in a digital age, and children learn how to operate and enjoy technology in infancy. While in some cases this is remarkable, in other ways it is a distraction. Electronic reading options abound; however, research shows that information is not as likely to be remembered when read on an electric device as it is from a book. As parents, it is imperative to limit screen time so that children do not become isolated, and afraid of socialization. Encouraging children to spend time reading off-screen and making sure to set aside time where you connect over a book is a way to help keep them grounded and focused on the world in front of them.

There are many amazing books and series of books available to read aloud to children of all ages.  Your child may jump into a series like “Harry Potter”, or a “Series of Unfortunate Events”, they may find a subject such as airplanes, dinosaurs, or horses that they love. Whatever it is that you read, if you read it together with your child, it will be time well spent.

Check out our list below of some classic and not so classic books that kid just love to have read aloud to them:

“The One and Only Ivan” – by Katherine Applegate

This is the story of a captive gorilla who simply seeks a better life. It is a fiction story based loosely on true events and captures the lesson of friendship and bravery. Great for ages 6 -9. 

“Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices”– by Paul Fleischman

Children who love insects will love this one, as will kids who love to read out loud. Designed to be read by two voices this book of poetry will delight children ages 6 through 12.

“Inkheart” – by Cornelia Funke

This is a fantasy story full of action and adventure. People only wish they could hop into the pages of their favorite book, in this story we meet Mo, who can do just that. This book is fun for all and a great read-aloud for ages 6 – 12.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” – by Crockett Jackson

Meet Harold and his purple crayon. This book has connected with generations of readers and is beloved by all who read it. A story of creativity and self-empowerment this book is a good read aloud for children ages 2 to about 9.

“The Book With No Pictures” – by B.J Novak

This book is all about reading out loud, in fact, it only works if every single word is read aloud. Funny wacky and weird this one is perfect for kids ages 6 to 9.

“Balloon Farm” – by Jerdine Nolen and Mark Buehner

This is no ordinary farm and no ordinary crop. This book of short fiction stories will keep everyone laughing for hours and is a hilarious read-aloud for younger kids ages 3 to about 9.

“The Hobbit” – by J.R.R. Tolkien

The story of Bilbo Baggins and his grand adventure is sure to thrill young listeners, it is a tale of magic and adventure, that just might make them want to hear more.  Great for older kids from around 10 to 13.

Check out more amazing read-aloud books for kids from here.

If you worry about your child’s reading ability, their concentration at school, or other developmental needs, know that our providers at Premier Pediatrics are here to help. We have resources and support available for all your children’s needs.

Why You Should Read Out Loud to Your Child

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