If there is one parenting tip I could give that works for all families from all walks of life, with children of all ages, it is this: Read aloud to your children! No matter how old they are, no matter how advanced, make it a part of your family culture to read aloud. And have them read aloud to you, as well.
The benefits to reading aloud are numerous. First of all, you raise a child’s reading level when you read to them. You expose them to new vocabulary, increasing their knowledge of language. When you read to a child, choose a book that would be a little too difficult for them to be comfortable reading to themselves to get the biggest reading level gains.
Second, reading aloud creates a shared family culture. Those shared favorite characters and moments from books are a bond, a shared family experience. For instance, the answer to when can I do such and such is often, “When you are 16,” a reference from National Velvet that makes us laugh.
More importantly, these shared books are a jumping off place for many family discussions about life and the important questions. Reading Oliver Twist aloud helped us have a discussion about sex trafficking and abuse in a much gentler way than a news headline would have done.
Listening to a book uses some different skills and different parts of the brain than reading to yourself. Both types of skills need to be developed in children. For some aural learners, they will comprehend what they hear much better than what they read. Reading aloud increases attention span, too.
And please don’t expect your children to sit still while they listen. Let them play quietly with Legos, puzzles, and crayons while you read to them. Little ones will pick up more than you realize, listening while they play.
Research shows that when you read and pronounce words aloud, you remember them better. This is the part where your student reads aloud to you and experiences the benefits of improved comprehension and recall. Hearing your own voice apparently creates a memorable incident that your brain has an easier time of recalling.
A cuddly, pleasurable reading aloud time creates a happy association with reading. Break out the popcorn and occasionally the chocolate candy. Pull out a cozy blanket. Make reading aloud an exciting event. Ask questions to start discussions based on what you are reading. My five literary analysis questions are an easy place to start. Reading aloud with your kids helps them see that you value reading, which is way more impactful than just telling them they should read books. Pop open a book and start today!
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