“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
— Becoming a Nation of Readers a U.S. Department of Education Report, 1985
Why does reading aloud help my child learn to read? The two main doors for words to get into our brain is either through the eye or through the ear. It will be several years before a baby will need their eyes for reading so the best source for brain building in a young child is through the ear. Reading aloud helps lay the key foundation for your child to learn to read, which is ‘phonemic awareness.’ Those meaningful sounds in the ear help your child decode words and make sense of words coming later through the eye.
- Reading aloud goes even further! We read aloud with children for pleasure and to reassure, entertain, bond, inform, arouse curiosity, and inspire. Reading aloud helps your child associate reading with pleasure. Reading aloud develops your child’s background knowledge and builds vocabulary.
- It is important to remember that your child’s ‘listening comprehension’ is higher than their ‘grade level reading ability.’ So don’t be afraid to read a book above their grade level reading ability. The benefits will aid them as they learn to read. The larger the vocabulary, the better your child will understand academic language.
- A good children’s book offers 3x the vocabulary development than conversation alone. When researchers counted the words we use most often, the total was 10,000 different words. A large number of these words are what we call ‘sight words’ such as the, a, an, through, is, that, what, who, how, and more. Sight words are the words we just know the minute we see them! We do not sound them out. Most reading material is majority ‘sight words.’ So, the better developed your child’s sight word vocabulary, the more successful they will be as they learn to read and grow.
Questions, questions, questions. How can I help my child learn to read? How do you get started? What if you do not have a lot of books in your home? What do I do with older children? What if my reading skills are low?
- Your local library is your best friend. The library offers print and audio resources.
- Keep your eye out for used book sales.
- Sharing is caring. Set up a ‘share the book’ system with neighbors.
- Be a role model to your older children. Research shows that a decline in the amount of recreational reading by teens coincides with a decline in the amount of time adults read to them. Graphic novels (most commonly referred to as comic books), magazines, and newspapers are all great for reading aloud to older children [even if you subscribe online sit and read aloud using your digital device.] Put down the remote and game sticks!
- If you are concerned about your reading skills, work with your friends and neighbors for read aloud story time in your neighborhood. This could be especially helpful if English is not your first language.
- Create a special place and time for frequent reading aloud with your child.
- Remember, your child’s best introduction to learn to read is YOU!
Resources: The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease