When kids are young, it’s easy to make reading aloud a part of their daily routine. We let them pick a picture book, read it through once, kiss them on the forehead and call it a day. However, all too often we let this ritual go as they begin to read to themselves.
If your child is between the ages of 6 and 12, ask them to read a couple of paragraphs out loud to you. Do they put an upward inflection on questions? Do they pause at commas? Or do they recite words monotonously, with no tone changes at punctuation marks or between different speakers? If your child’s tone and inflection don’t vary when they read, it’s possible they don’t have enough experience with prosody: the patterns of rhythm and sound that make reading interesting. That’s not just a problem during reading aloud--it’s an indicator that your child’s silent reading comprehension is not what it could be.
Luckily, there’s an easy solution: read with your children regularly, even if they can read to themselves. When you change your inflection at question marks, pause at commas, and “do voices” for different characters and narrators, you’ll help your kids make connections between text and meaning.
Jim Trelease, educator and author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, says that kids’ reading levels often don’t catch up with their “listening levels” until 8th grade. If your child can read at a 3rd-grade level, they may be able to understand and enjoy listening to a 5th-grade level book. This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary and higher-thinking concepts before they come up in the classroom.
Worried that your child thinks bedtime stories are for babies? Fear not: studies show kids enjoy read-aloud time with parents long after they can read to themselves. The Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report found that a whopping 87% of kids age 6-11 “love” or “really like” it when their parents read to them. However, only 38% of parents of children ages 6-8 still read aloud--and that number drops to 17% after age 9.
The top reason kids gave for enjoying read-aloud time was that reading together is “special time with a parent”. Reading out loud is a great bonding experience as well as an educational opportunity. Talk about the book as you read it together! Reading with you gives your child an opportunity to “pause” the story and ask questions about unfamiliar words or plot and character development--just like they did when they were younger.
Whenever possible, let your child choose what they want to read; you want to send the message that reading is fun, not a chore. The best read-aloud options have distinctive narrative voices and good senses of humor. Chapter books with some pictures, like Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black or Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, will keep younger kids’ interest. For older kids, try The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Holes by Louis Sachar, or Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
Will you restart a read-aloud routine with your older child? Let us know in the comments!