Reading aloud with children is standard practice for teachers in preschools and primary schools, and even for teachers of older children. Public libraries often have read aloud sessions by librarians, and experts encourage parents and other family members to read aloud with children. Why is reading aloud with children so widely endorsed? Here are a dozen ways that reading aloud can benefit the children with whom you read.
- Raises awareness of reading options. Reading aloud introduces children to a wide range of available reading materials. Many lists of reading materials are available. When adults read aloud, they allow children to sample prospective reading materials. This is a step beyond just seeing a title in a list of materials.
- Models pronunciation. Part of knowing a word is knowing how to pronounce the word. Too often, children can recognize a word in print, but they do not know how to pronounce it. Of course, every language has multiple varieties, including non-native varieties, and pronunciation differs across varieties.
- Develops vocabulary. Vocabulary is best learned in context. Reading provides such contextualized reading, and reading aloud supplements this, as adults and peers can provide assist children when context alone proves insufficient for comprehension.
- Teaches knowledge of the world and of books. Schema (background knowledge) provides an essential foundation for comprehension. While reading aloud to children, adults can build children’ schema on particular topics, thereby facilitating children’ future reading on those topics. Children also learn about different types of books, such as mysteries and science fiction.
- Teaches language elements and reading strategies. The term language elements refers to grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. These can, at least in part, be learned without being taught by teachers or other adults. Reading strategies include guessing word meaning from context (from the other words in the same paragraph or elsewhere), rereading to increase comprehension, and using visuals, such as the drawings in the book.
- Builds bonds between the readers and listeners and among listeners. Reading materials provide a shared experience, one to which adults and children can later refer. Also, read aloud sessions contrast with more stressful school reading activities.
- Offers a model of the joy of reading. Reading materials, including non-fiction, have the potential to provoke a wide range of emotions, thereby making life more colourful. Indeed, a key function of reading aloud is to counter the belief that some children may have that reading equals boredom and drudgery. As adults read aloud, they can share their own joy and encourage children to feel the same joy. Furthermore, the dialog aspect of reading aloud with children makes reading even more enjoyable.
- Encourages a love for reading silently/aloud. Perhaps the key goal of reading aloud lies in motivating children to read on their own, and most of that reading will be silent reading, although now and then children might read aloud. The more children read, the more ideas and knowledge they have to discuss with others.
- Builds thinking and communication skills. The dialogic element reading aloud with children encourages the children to think more deeply and engage with others, as everyone seeks to communicate their reactions to what has been read.
- Models expressing emotions. Too often, reading in school focuses only on cognition (thinking and knowing), neglecting affect (emotion). By facilitating dialogue about what has been read aloud, adults provide children a safe place to reflect on and express their emotions.
- Promotes discussion of values. Similarly, reading materials link to values, and adults can utilize the teachable moments that reading materials provide in order for children to recognize the values authors may consciously or unconsciously be expressing. More importantly, sparked by what they have read aloud, adults can enable children to clarify their own values.
- Encourages reflection on life and actions. Closely related to values are the actions that people take. Children can reflect by comparing their life experiences and plans with the ideas in the readings and the actions and plans of the people in the texts they read.
Summary: Knowing about the many benefits of reading aloud with children can help us be more conscious about achieving these benefits.