I’m a huge proponent of reading aloud. I read an article recently that expertly explained the benefits of reading to your children, far beyond the point they can read to themselves. Indeed, even through high school.
“In conversation, we tend to use verbal shorthand, not full sentences. But the language in books is very rich, and in books there are complete sentences. In books, newspapers, and magazines, the language is more complicated, more sophisticated. A child who hears more sophisticated words has a giant advantage over a child who hasn’t heard those words.”
When children are young, they are exposed to language exceeding their own reading level by being read to. This introduction to complex expression of thought equips them in a way reading to themselves cannot.
“Reading aloud to your kids is also are good way to grapple with difficult issues. For example, you can tell your child, “I don’t want you to hang out with so and so,” but that’s a lecture that will probably go in one ear and out the other. But if you read a book about a kid who gets in trouble by hanging out with the wrong crowd, your child is going to experience that directly, and she’s going to experience it with you at her side, and you can talk about it together. You can ask questions like: “Do you think the boy made the right choice?” “Do you think that girl was really her friend?” When you talk about a book together, it’s not a lecture, it’s more like a coach looking at a film with his players, going over the plays to find out what went right and what went wrong.”
Although my children still have much growing-up to do, we already explore morals and values through captivating stories. As they mature, this avenue of teaching will only grow more intentional and advantageous.
“Someone once said that books allow you to examine explosive situations without having them blowing up in your face. Books allow you to develop awareness of people outside your experience and develop a sense of empathy. When I was growing up, I wasn’t rich, but by reading books I learned that there are kids out there who are a lot worse off than me, kids growing up with real disadvantages. The wider your world, the more you understand and the more you can empathize.”
Our world is shrinking. We all seem to be insulating ourselves from dissonance and discomfort. Especially in protected middle-class America, it takes a concerted effort to expose our children to situations and experiences outside their bubble of life. Books are a perfect avenue to do so, without causing danger or risk to our kids. The lessons in empathy and understanding derived from books are invaluable.
All quotes from an interview with Jim Trealease (author of The Read-Aloud Handbook). He calls reading aloud an advertisement for books. When you stop doing it, you stop selling. Into high school especially, you don’t want books to become tied to work and only work. Keep enticing your kids to continue reading past the point it is required. The Read-Aloud Handbook provides in-depth information on why this style of reading is important, as well as a list of read-aloud books.
If you’re looking for a good starting point to read-aloud, may I recommend Classics To Read Aloud to Your Children. Rather than just a list of books to read, it contains excerpts from classic stories meant for ages 5-12. Instead of scouring for reading material from a list of books, you can get this one volume and start exposing your kids to complex, engaging reading material immediately.
This book is broken up into age ranges for the read-aloud stories and includes classics from Doyle, Tennyson, Longfellow, Dickens, Shakespeare, Homer and much more. The sections are clearly marked with the duration of the story, some background information for the reader, as well as vocabulary and pronunciation guides.
The book includes poetry in addition to classic tales of adventure and intrigue. My children beg for more every time we break out this storybook. Whether you choose to use this book, or something you already have in your home, it’s never too early (or too late!) to get comfy on a couch with your kids and start reading out loud. Happy Reading!