There are many benefits to reading aloud to kids.
By Meagan Howell
Reading aloud has to be one of the very best parts of parenthood.
From the earliest days of my first pregnancy, I began to anticipate all the books from my childhood that my husband and I would soon share with the mysterious person growing inside me. The baby would love the Ramona books someday. And “Little Women,” and the “Chronicles of Narnia,” and “Little House on the Prairie,” too. And while the baby teethed and toddled, and I patiently waited for the Chapter Book Era to begin, we would read “In the Night Kitchen” and “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” over and over and over.
Unlike most of my expectations from early parenthood, the reading fantasies proved to be realistic. My kids love to read and be read to, and for the most part they love the books I loved. Nowadays my kids introduce me to new books that they’re passionate about, such as “Harry Potter,” and so our store of shared books keeps growing.
Whenever life gets rocky—when transitions at school or work or home throw us off our game—our family read-aloud culture is a dependable source of contentment and reconnection for all four of us.
And while I smile every time I see my 6-year-old sitting motionless on the couch with a big delicious book, I cannot help but wonder how having independent readers will impact our family’s read aloud time in the years to come.
Recently, in the middle of listening to “Babar’s Mystery” with her brother, my daughter looked down at the far more enticing book she held in her lap and asked if she could read “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle” by herself instead. I heard myself say “of course,” but truth be told my heart sank a little. I’ll make concessions for the likes of “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle,” but I don’t intend to let this family habit die out.
I’m talking reading aloud with teenagers, people. Can it be done? Are there ways to encourage a read aloud culture that endures? And what kind of impact does listening to books have on children who are already independent readers? Besides the pleasure I take in reading aloud together, what’s in it for my kids?