Only 17% of parents of kids ages 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83% of kids ages 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot. (Scholastic’s “Kids & Family Reading ReportTM”)
Mom Andrea Chisholm, echoes this sentiment, “Even though my older one can easily read books himself, he still loves to be read to at night.”
For many kids, being read to by their parents is a cherished ritual. But it’s also much more than that. Reading aloud to kids helps expand their literacy skills, love of reading, worldview, and more. Here are some key reasons it’s important to read aloud to your older kids:
Lets Them Experience the Joy of Story
The goal is to love the story. That’s the point of reading, unless you’re reading for meaning. When my oldest daughter didn’t “take” to reading as I’d hoped, I let her listen to hours of audiobooks and read aloud to her multiple times a day. I wanted her to get hooked on the stories in the chapter books, without the frustration of reading them. Like her, all readers — and especially struggling readers — learn to love stories by hearing stories.
Models Fluent Reading
When you read to kids, you’re modeling how to read language. You pause at commas and periods. Your voice inflection changes when you read questions or exclamations. And you can show what you, a fluent reader, do when you come to a word you don’t know. (Even if you’re faking that you don’t know it.)
Helps Expand Their Vocabulary
Kids’ auditory comprehension is higher than their reading comprehension. When you pick a challenging book that your kids can’t read on their own, you are exposing them to a wealth of new vocabulary words. This stretches a child’s language development, particularly if you stop to talk about the meaning of these harder words.
Exposes Kids to New Authors, Texts, and Genres
Reading aloud can get kids hooked on a new author or series of books. Once a child falls in love with the story or author, it’s hard to hold them back from reading it on their own.
Plus, reading aloud gives kids a chance to explore genres and texts they wouldn’t normally select.
“I often read the first chapter or two of a new book to my daughter to pull her into a book that she might not have chosen otherwise,” says Natalie Figge of Planet Smarty Pants.
There are so many amazing books that kids don’t pick to read on their own. These books make great read alouds — in what I call the “just give this book a chance” category.
Builds Awareness and Empathy
Literature is one of the best ways to help kids understand something without experiencing it for themselves. And books do this with all sorts of subjects and concepts, building our children’s understanding of humanity and the world around them.
Improves Kids’ Long-Term Reading Success
Finally, you probably know that decades of research shows that reading aloud to a child daily is one of the most important activities for her reading success. That goes for older kids, too. Kids who are read to have good vocabularies, write well, and do well overall in school (Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985 U. S. Department of Education meta-study of 10,000 studies). They’re also more likely to keep reading on their own.