6 Benefits of Reading Aloud, Even to Bigger Kids
Reading & Phonics
The Night Before Christmas. Harry Potter. The Princess Bride. Green Eggs and Ham. Some books were just made to be read aloud. You might even have memories yourself of being the beneficiary of an adult reading aloud, snuggled up on a lap or in bed feeling safe and warm.
Reading aloud is a human tradition as old as written language itself. In fact, research suggests silent reading was an elite skill in ancient times, originally used only by the most proficient scribes who needed to process written material at extreme speeds.
Yes, reading aloud is the “original” method of reading. It not only helps the reader better process and retain the text, it brings comfort and joy to the listener.
Here are 6 reasons to make time for reading aloud, even to older kids.
Reading aloud demonstrates fluid reading.
Fluent readers are scanning ahead at the same time they’re speaking previously processed words. It’s a skill that takes practice and focus, and which allows the reader to speak a phrase at a time instead of sounding choppy. Reading aloud to kids of all ages helps them learn what fluent reading sounds like, and passes on knowledge of intonation and and emphasis. Since children have better listening comprehension than they do reading, listening to a story read aloud at any age will help expose them to more complex language and phrasing.
Reading aloud helps children develop imagery and narrative understanding.
It’s not hard to believe that listening to stories read aloud would develop auditory processing skills, but the brain benefits related to semantics and meaning are just being uncovered. One recent controlled study suggests that children who grow up being read to more frequently are more adept at extracting both imagery and semantic meaning from a text than those who are read to less frequently, regardless of household income. So, reading Goodnight Moon night after night can gift your child with a better ability to one day enjoy and absorb a podcast, a movie, or even a university lecture.
Reading aloud promotes psychosocial development.
Children who are read aloud to more regularly seem to exhibit reduced hyperactivity and aggression and experience fewer behavioural challenges when entering school, according to research. There are many complex ways in which reading aloud is correlated with behaviour. Children may be happier in relationships which involve the regular close physical contact and shared experience of reading aloud. It could also be possible that being exposed to narrative helps children develop a better understanding of, and comfort with, thoughts and feelings. In preschoolers and tweens alike, reading aloud helps spark conversation and connection which fosters greater mental and emotional health.
Reading aloud helps children build phonemic awareness.
We know phoemic awareness, or the understanding of speech sounds within words, is heavily correlated with reading ability in kids of all ages. Reading aloud to your child and exposing them to a language-rich environment can help sharpen this awareness organically. Books which include rhyming and language play, typical especially in those for young children, encourage curiosity and comfort with phonemes. The experience of simultaneously listening to and viewing the text, whether a toddler’s picture book or a classic novel, may also help your child sharpen phonemic awareness and encounter less common phonemes.
Reading aloud imparts higher level vocabulary.
A robust vocabulary helps a child communicate and create their own narratives, and also makes reading school assignments and academic texts easier. While we all have school day memories of vocabulary quizzes, research shows vocabulary comes mostly from exposure not direct instruction. Specifically, it’s exposure to reading not to conversation that has the greatest impact. Children’s books contain 30 rare words for every 1,000 total words, offering richer vocabulary than even adult television or conversation, typically. Great news for parents of tweens and teens: comic books contain 50 rare words per 1,000, on par with adult literature.
Reading aloud teaches a child to associate reading with pleasure.
Perhaps most important of all, reading aloud to a child helps them to associate enjoyment with the act of reading – one they’ll encounter in daily life, professional tasks and academic pursuits. Research shows older kids who read less for pleasure are typically those who were read to less as young children. While we can’t completely control the brain-based factors which might affect our child’s experience with language and how “easy” or not they find the act of reading, we can make reading less intimidating and more comfortable by including it in our family traditions. Even 15 minutes a day can make a difference.
What’s your favourite part of reading together? Share below!