You’ve probably heard a lot of talk in the homeschool community about the importance of reading aloud. Reading is fast becoming a lost art in our video-based society. But it still remains the most efficient means of gaining information as well as a very pleasant way to slow down and enjoy a story. Today we’re gonna give you a short summary of why you should read aloud with your family, a few ideas for what to do if you don’t or can’t or don’t like reading aloud, and links to some more resources on the topic.
The first reason that you should read aloud to your children is that it gives them access to words that are written beautifully that they might not otherwise be able to have right now. “When you read aloud to your children, you build a rich vocabulary by introducing them to words in context. Then, when they encounter a big word in their own reading, they pronounce it with ease” (Courtney). You almost always want to read aloud above your child’s grade reading level. That’s actually setting up their brain so that as their reading level increases they are ready to read more advanced books.
The act of snuggling up for a story teaches children from a young age that reason is pleasant and enjoyable. As they grow older and learn to read for themselves, the habit of returning to the couch for a story increases their desire for reading as well as their comprehension and attention. “Unfortunately, many parents tend to read out loud to children less as time goes on, believing that when a child begins to read on his own, he doesn’t need to be read to anymore. But in truth, it’s when a child starts to read independently that he most needs to be read to—at a level above his own—to cultivate an understanding of more complex material” (Pudewa).
Sharing stories together as a family creates a common culture in which the tales of Narnia, the Shire, The Hundred Acre Wood, and hundreds of other places inform our actions and relationships. It develops a common vocabulary in the household. Continuing to read together allows for all sorts of in-depth conversations about characters, choices, and consequences. While we should not discuss other peoples’ sins and short-comings, it is safe to talk about the situations that characters get themselves into so that we can talk with our children about making right and moral decisions.
If you haven’t tried reading aloud, start with short picture books. If you’ve never read a chapter book aloud, then you want to pick something with short chapters and a high-interest story to start with. One of the first chapter books that we read aloud was Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price. There is a great list of first chapter books to start with (and a LOT of other suggestions) here at the Read-Aloud Revival. Gladys Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s (Teen’s/Woman’s) Heart are books full of reading recommendations, and so is Sarah Clarkson’s Read for the Heart.
If you have tried to read aloud to your children and you just don’t enjoy it, you could try listening to audiobooks with your kids instead. You can try out Audible, or you can check with your local public library and see what apps you have access to through their system. In Tulsa, the library system has switched several times. Right now, they have audiobooks available through the Libby App. Audiobooks are also an option if your voice is tired, if you are tired, or if you are driving, or just about any other time. Listening together yields some great conversations. We’ve listened to multiple series of books while driving cross-country as well as lying on the living room rug on those hottest Oklahoma summer afternoons.
Courtney, Jennifer. “The Joy of Reading Aloud.” Classical Conversations, 21 Sept. 1970, members.classicalconversations.com/article/joy-reading-aloud.
Pudewa, Andrew. “The Arts of Language.” Institute for Excellence in Writing, 5 Dec. 2017, iew.com/help-support/resources/articles/arts-language.