Even though this is technically a homeschooling blog, this is a parenting post. There is something all parents need to be doing, no matter how old your kids are, no matter where your kids go to school, no matter how academic or athletic they are: You need to be reading to your kids—every day, if possible. It’s so easy when they’re little and all the books are cute and can be read in five minutes and they can’t read to themselves anyway. When they get older, though, more and more parents quit—and more teachers do, too. So why take the time to read to kids who can read for themselves?
- You’re building reading skills. This is especially important for younger kids as they are learning about print conventions, but older kids can build their skills through read alouds, too. Vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension can all be improved as kids hear new words in context, listen to the flow of the words, and discuss the story. Even though your child may be a good reader, read alouds are a great way to strengthen those abilities.
- You’re increasing their knowledge. Sometimes kids are interested in a topic and there is just no way they can read everything about it—maybe the available materials are too complex for them to tackle on their own or maybe there is just so much to choose from that there isn’t enough time. Non-fiction read alouds are a great way to help your kids learn about a topic of your choosing or theirs. Also, even if you are reading fiction, you can help them build background knowledge. If you’re reading Number the Stars your children won’t come away knowing lots of details about World War II, but they will have some general information about the time period to draw on when they do study it later.
- You’re setting a good example. If you’re taking the time to read to your children you’re showing them that reading is important. While most young children read something for pleasure each day, the numbers of teens and adults who read for pleasure is shockingly low. Yes, we have lots of important activities to go to and many responsibilities to take care of, but sitting still and reading for a short time each day is a great way to relax your body and exercise your mind. The more you do it, the more likely your kids are to follow your example!
- You’re able to reach different age levels with the same book. Obviously the ages of your kids will affect how much each child gleans from a certain book, but it’s not necessary to have a separate read aloud for each child. Younger children might be enjoying a book for the first time just for the pleasure of hearing the story while your older children may be listening for some specific literary element. Both ages are building background knowledge and reading skills. It’s great!
- You’re having fun with your kids. What your librarian told you is true: Reading is fun. You can learn new things, visit far off places, meet exciting people, and have great adventures, and who better to do it with than your children? I’ve been reading to my son for eight years now and I love it when we laugh about something we’re reading or when he says, “Oh, that’s like in that one book we read!” We have that shared experience that is just so much fun.
Hopefully all of the above is old news to you, but if it isn’t, I want to encourage you to find a good book and sit down with your kids. It’s a great way to pass hot summer afternoons and I think you’ll find that you all will have a great time. Want a great read aloud reminder to post on your fridge? Check out Twenty Minutes A Day by Richard Peck—one of the best authors writing for young people today!