4 Reasons why you should make time to read out loud to your kids!
I don’t remember the first book I ever read, but I do remember Saturday afternoons spent with a stack of The Babysitter’s Club books, Nancy Drew mysteries, and whatever book I brought home from the library that week. I wasn’t content to just read one book at a time. I needed to READ ALL THE BOOKS!! A chapter from Kristy’s Big Idea, then a chapter from The Haunting of Horse Island, and then maybe a chapter of The Long Winter.
Yes, I was able to keep all the storylines straight, and yes I grew up to be an English major. Even though I never became an English teacher (I still correct grammar like one) I always knew I wanted to pass on that love of reading to my children.
I thought it was as simple as giving my children books, taking them to the library, and teaching them to read. But I was missing a key element: the read aloud. A deep love of books and stories comes for sitting down and reading stories to our kids. Before my children learned to read, I read to them everyday. I sadly didn’t as much once they learned to read on their own.
That’s when the book The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie changed my life. This book taught me about how to create a book culture at home, but also why it is so important to read aloud to your kids even after they can read for themselves. Not only is this concept important from a homeschooling perspective, but it also has positive effects for your family.
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Benefits to Reading Aloud to Your Kids
1. BOOKS BUILD CONNECTIONS
How does reading aloud bring together your family in a deep and meaningful way?
“The stories we read together act as a bridge when we can’t seem to find another way to connect. They are our currency, our language, our family culture. The words and stories we share become a part of our family identity.”
I was doing this already and didn’t even realize it! And believe it or not, I noticed it because of the horrendous and evil Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. She is a hateful and torturous witch who was dubbed “Dumbridge” by my oldest. In our family, “Dumbridge” is the ultimate insult.
On the flip side, we have the lovable Ramona Quimby. The mischievous 4 year-old who takes one bite out of every apple in the basement of her house on Klickitat Street. One day we had a half-eaten apple our kitchen counter and my oldest exclaims: “Look! It’s like Ramona was here!”
In fact, my kids love Ramona so much they want to go to Portland on vacation so we can see the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden and the Ramona statue.
Reading aloud forms connections, builds strong family bonds, and forges long-lasting memories. As Sarah says “Stories are comfort food. Stories are inside jokes. Stories are ant moments. They bond us together when life is hard.”
“Those little moments, lined up one after another like beads on a string, add up to a lifetime of shared experiences, moments, and memories. They sustain and strengthen families who are enduring hard times. They are, in the end, the moments that matter most.”
And most of all, reading aloud with our kids makes us put away the distractions and focus on the moment.
“When we read with our kids, we step outside the noise, the hustle, the friction, and for just a few minutes, we are completely and totally present with them.”
2. READING ALOUD NURTURES THE HERO WITHIN US
We can’t protect our kids from anything once they leave our homes. If you let it, this thought can be really scary because we want the best things for our children and we want them to be able to face the future bravery. But how?
“We can give them something that will help them. We can offer them something even better than protection. We can give them practice-lots and lots of practice.”
Whether its Harry Potter choosing to defeat Lord Voldemort or Bud escaping his foster home to find his real family in Bud, Not Buddy, our children fight along side them. Children young and old “face odds and overcome struggles right alongside their favorite characters.” They are given “an opportunity to experience what it feels like to be overwhelmed, struggle, fight, overcome, and emerge a hero.”
Heroic virtue is instilled over time as they read more books and encounter more heroes.
“If we tell them enough stories, they will have encountered hard questions and practiced living through so many trials, hardships, and unexpected situations that, God willing, they will have what they need to become the heroes of their own stories.”
3. READING OUT LOUD HELPS OUR CHILDREN LEARN TO THINK
I don’t think it’s debatable that reading is good for kids. But what mental skills does reading your kids sharpen?
Simply put, reading aloud gives our children the gift of learning to think. Children who are vivacious readers learn to think deeply and make connections and apply those skills to subjects outside of language arts.
First by the art of language itself. Homeschool moms talk to their kids. A lot. But, it’s in a conversational style, usually, without any rich vocabulary. Literature give us sophisticated language and correct grammar.
“Hearing enough of this kind of language will build within our children a storehouse of good vocabulary and accurate language patterns.”
Second is the ability to make connections because “when we’re reading, we’re practicing the art of thinking well. We’re asking questions. We’re connecting ideas.”
And lastly, reading aloud helps our children learn to love reading.
“Even more important than teaching our kids the actual skill of reading is to cultivate a deep love of stories. When we focus on nurturing our children’s love of stories, we get both kids who can read as well as kids who do.“
- Thinking of homeschooling? Read this first?
- 10 reasons why we decided to homeschool
- Why we homeschool, and you should too!
4. READ ALOUDS NURTUREs EMPATHY AND COMPASSION
I was in sixth grade the first time I read Mildred Taylor’s Let the Circle Be Unbroken, the story of the Logans, and an African American family living in a rural Mississippi community during the 1930s. This fictionalized portrayal of the segregated South shows the adversity, discrimination, and racism this family faced. Many times while reading this book, I would think to myself, “How can people treat each other this way?”
The power of story allows us to experience the world from a different point of view. Stories are empathy builders. I know my personal sense of empathy began that day reading Taylor’s book.
“To live vicariously through the feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and life experiences of another – someone we would otherwise never get to know. The first step is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”
Stories allow us, just like going along the journey of a hero, to show our children the hardships and difficulties of other families, children, and people throughout history and throughout the world.
“The process of entering into a life different from our own compels us to see the world from another point of view.”
Once the seed of empathy is planted, the building of compassion can begin. Those feelings of sorrow and despair must invoke action to be truly meaningful.
Linda Sue Park “A book can’t change the world on its own, but a book can change readers. And readers? They can change the world.”
Why Read Aloud?
Reading out loud to our kids is perhaps the most valuable tool we have for spending time with our children. It builds connections on a deep and meaningful level, it inspires heroic value, it makes them smarter, and builds empathy and compassion.
“Whether they remember the titles of the books they read together doesn’t really even matter. But I am certain of one thing: they will not forget that their mama read to them.”
Books Mentioned in this Post
- The Read Aloud Family
- Bud, Not Buddy
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Beezus and Ramona
- The Babysitter’s Club
- Let the Circle Be Unbroken
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Yes, reading aloud to kids even if they can read by themselves is so good. I still read to my son, not as often as before, but it’s fun to sit down together and share a book. He will read one chapter, then I will read the next. It makes the experience even better than reading quietly alone.