Many parents enjoy snuggling up and reading to their young children. Many of those same parents assume that they should stop reading to their children as they get older and start learning to read, or life becomes busy and reading aloud together stops being a habit.

As a children's librarian, I encourage you to continue to read aloud to your older elementary aged children. Here are just a few reasons:

Snuggle up and read

Family read alouds play a critical role in helping children become skilled readers.

  1. "Snuggle up and read time" links love, connection, and reading. Learning to read is hard work. It involves phonics and sight words, vocabulary and spelling lists, fluency struggles, comprehension questions, and reading-associated writing assignments. Snuggling up for a family read aloud provides a reminder that reading provides connection. It offers a "commercial" about why all of the work is worth it.
  2. First reading practice books (easy readers) are short and usually fairly boring. Children understand stories several years beyond their reading ability, and family read alouds provide the richer storylines to engage children's imaginations and interest while they engage in the hard work of learning to read.
  3. Reading aloud rich, complex stories exposes children to new and richer vocabulary. Children (and we adults) need to hear a word twelve times before it becomes part of our listening vocabulary. Our listening vocabulary, which contains the words we understand, but don't use in conversation, filters into our speaking and reading vocabularies.
  4. Lastly, reading aloud models reading as something that adults do (especially when a parent couples reading aloud with allowing children to see adults reading for pleasure).

Reading together also supports family connection and emotional growth.

  1. We may choose light-hearted, funny stories and get to laugh together, and laughing builds connection.
  2. Fiction allows us--all of us--to develop greater self-understanding, as well as empathy and compassion for others. When we choose stories with strong characters (or flawed characters) and deep issues, we get the opportunity to discuss why characters made the decisions or reacted the way that they did. We can talk about how one character's actions might have affected another character. We can learn about different cultures and ways of being in the world... and we can learn compassion for those who are different from us.
  3. Fiction allows us to know our kids--and for them to know us--on a deeper level. We get the opportunity to talk about a variety of tough issues... prejudice, death, fear, loneliness, despair, hope, compassion, and more. And then, if or when they face those issues, they have at least had some experience exploring the issue from different angles.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reasons to read with a child. Next week, I'll share thoughts on what makes a great read aloud and share a few of my favorite read alouds from 2016. Until then, curl up with a beloved kid and share a favorite book. Happy reading!

Suzanne - Children's Librarian

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