A survey by Scholastic (Australian Kids and Family Reading Report) found that 20% of parents stopped reading to their children before they turned nine. Yet 36% of children aged 6-11 whose parents had stopped reading to them wished their parents hadn’t stopped.

Reading out loud is incredibly important for kids so ceasing the practice isn’t just a disappointment. It can also have ramifications for their literacy.

Pronunciation

Just because a child can read independently, doesn’t mean he/she has nothing more to learn. For instance, there are many English words with quirky pronunciations and children will often only come across many such words after they’ve learned to read. If you’re not reading out loud to your child and their school teachers aren’t doing so much or at all, then how will they know how to pronounce such words?

Other literacy skills

Reading out loud to children that can read independently does more than just help with pronunciation, however. It helps with other verbal and aural literacy skills such as fluency and listening. It also helps expand vocabulary and develop comprehension skills beyond what is often possible with texts that match a child’s reading ability.

The joy of the shared story

There’s also the enjoyment factor. Many kids do actually enjoy being read to even though they can read themselves. They like it when you bring stories alive with great voices and they enjoy the special bonding that occurs when the tv and computer are off and a story comes off the shelf. Many revel in the ability to discuss a story that you’ve both read. It’s also a great opportunity for kids to enjoy stories that they’re emotionally ready for but which they’re not easily able to read themselves.

I remember when I read Lord of the Rings for the first time and my brother, who is five years younger than me, really wanted to read it too. But it was just too big a task for him to read something that monumental by himself. So we took it in turns to read it out loud to each other. I would read two or three chapters and then he would read one. It was a fantastic bonding experience, and he was so happy that he got to read the books. In fact, it’s one of my happiest memories of my school years. And, sure, I was his big sister rather than his parent but the principle is the same.

Parents benefit too

Something else that can get overlooked is the benefit to us as parents. Everyone is busy these days. Whether it’s work, household chores or chauffeuring the kids to activities, there always seems to be something we have to do. This can mean that reading for pleasure takes a back seat. Setting aside time to read to our kids means we get some relaxation time and it may be the only opportunity some of us get to do any recreational reading at all. It also gives us an opportunity to practice our own reading-out-loud skills. And I don’t know about you, but mine certainly need to be honed!

Please read out loud to your child

So when your child becomes an independent reader, please don’t stop reading out loud to him or her. Sure you can encourage their own reading pursuits but don’t forget to set aside some time to continue reading out loud to them. And if your child is already an independent reader and you’ve stopped reading to them please, please start doing it again.


K. M. Wade

K. M. Wade is a multi-genre and freelance writer, gardener and scientist

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