Why you should read aloud to your children
Experts agree: Children who are read to are more likely to become lifelong readers. It's so important that there is an official day to encourage reading aloud. This year March 5 is World Read Aloud Day.
LitWorld, a nonprofit literacy organization, sponsors World Read Aloud Day and asks us to "imagine a world where everyone can read." The organization hopes to call worldwide attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. Litworld explains its mission as taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. It wants March 5 to be "a day that motivates children, teens and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another and creates a community of readers advocating for every child's right to a safe education and access to books and technology."
Visit LitWorld's website to check out some cool ways by which you can participate in World Read Aloud day. It offers activity packet downloads for the classroom and home. You can be a part of it by simply passing the word around, which I'm going to do now by standing on my reading soapbox:
Long before I had kids, I read that if a child ever asks you to read to him, do it, not "in a minute", but right then. This stayed with me, and of all the parenting good intentions I have had but seemed to fall away, reading aloud is one that has lasted. Are our children geniuses because of it? No. Has it made a difference? In more ways than one. Our children love to read, but more than that, they love to be read to. Even the older ones who have been reading independently for years will come around when a book is being read aloud.
In a home with a tween, an energetic 8-year-old, a very loud 5-year-old and an even louder 7-month-old, not many activities can bridge the gap the way reading aloud can. It is quiet; the kids are snuggled close; no eyes are rolling; and better yet, no iTouch, iPhone or i-anything is involved. It is a chance to connect. Think about it—your kids want to sit close to you. You can stop and talk about the story, answer questions, ask questions and connect the story to what is happening in real life. It doesn't have to be a book either. Magazines, newspapers and even the comics provide a great opportunity to read aloud and share a story.
In today's plugged-in, fast-paced, screen-driven world, it is hard to imagine that just a book and a voice can captivate an audience, especially an audience of wiggly children. Yet walk into any classroom where a teacher is reading aloud, and you will witness the magic. The students are sitting close, holding still and looking up. They are silent, waiting patiently to see what comes next. "How does that teacher do it?" you wonder. If you think it works only in schools, try it at home. No matter the ages of your kids, if you sit down and start reading aloud, I guarantee your kids will come in and join you.
I frequently refer to my favorite reading guru and literacy advocate Mem Fox. She has not only written books that are our read-aloud favorites but also "how to's" for parents and educators. Her book Reading Magic is one that I think belongs on every parent's and educator's shelf. Here is one of her advice gems:
- Spend at least 10 wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud. From birth!
- Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!
- Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don't be dull, flat or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
- Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
- Read the stories that your child loves, over and over and over again and always read in the same "tune" for each book: i.e., with the same intonations and volume and speed, on each page, each time.
- Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
- Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children and make sure the books are really short.
- Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes and finding the letters that start the child's name and yours, remembering that it's never work; it's always a fabulous game.
- Never ever teach reading or get tense around books.
- Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it's the right thing to do.
Fill your shelves with a few awesome read-alouds. After all, if you have great choices, it makes it so much easier to want to do it! Here are a few of my favorites:
For babies and toddlers
Board books are great for this age because they are sturdy. Children can touch, hold, bite and help turn pages.
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan Ahlberg
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
For any age
These tried and true classics will enhance any family bookshelf. Some are sweet; some are hilarious; but all are fun to read aloud with great voices!
Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon
The Louds Move In by Carolyn Crimi and Regan Dunnick
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Frog and Toad Series by Else Holmelund Minarik
The Little Bear Series by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz