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Why You Should Read Books Aloud To Your Child

It has always seemed to me that reading aloud regularly has an almost magical effect on children, and I’ve seen evidence of this during my thirty year teaching career. Now research has proven that reading aloud to preschoolers actually changes their brains! A study by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio discovered that reading to young children ages 3-5 causes a marked increase in neuron activity in the left side of the brain, an area that controls visual imaging, language, and reading comprehension. This study shows, using MRI scans, that story-time boosts your child’s brainpower and sets him/her up for success in school both socially and academically.

Hutton, John, et al. “Parent-Child Reading Increases Activation of Brain Networks Supporting Emergent Literacy in 3-5 Year-Old Children: An fMRI study”

Direct Benefits of Reading Aloud

In addition to causing beneficial, developmental changes in the brain, reading aloud accomplishes several other purposes. First, it puts well-constructed sentences into the child’s mind. Second, it improves your child’s vocabulary by introducing words that most of us don’t use in everyday conversation. Third, it imparts knowledge as you read a variety of non-fiction books, including biographies, as well as fiction. Fourth, and extremely important, as you read aloud books that have few or no pictures, your child learns to visualize, a vital skill for future reading comprehension.

Start reading picture books to your baby and keep it up as long as he/she likes them. When my children were preschoolers, we visited the public library every week or two where I would check out a couple of dozen picture books–an armload. We would read them all during the next few days, return them, and get more. Find true books on topics that interest your child–horses, motorcycles, dance, football, whatever–and read them aloud. When your child is four or five years old, start reading simple chapter books. As he/she learns to read, choose chapter books to read aloud that are somewhat above his/her reading level. Also, check out audio-books from the library and play them as you ride in your vehicle. Some libraries have an excellent selection of children’s books on CD. Listening to a great book is a worthwhile way to pass the time quickly as you travel.

The Skill of Visualization

In order to read and comprehend well, your child must be able to visualize. I once taught a student who could read every word in the book, but when I asked her to tell me what she had just read, she didn’t have a clue. She had mastered the technical part of reading–decoding the words–but she wasn’t visualizing as she read and therefore wasn’t comprehending. When you read chapter books aloud, your child practices visualization because there are no (or few) pictures in the book.

As a teacher I sometimes had a conference with a parent who said that he or she was “making” the child read every night. I then asked, “Do you read aloud to him/her?” Usually the answer was no; the parents felt they were doing the best thing by “making” the child read. Having your child practice reading each day is fine. Practice is needed when learning a new skill. But please don’t neglect reading aloud to your child! I occasionally asked my students how many of them had an adult at home who read to them a lot–almost every day. Usually no more than four or five children (out of approximately 25) raised their hands. The ones who raised their hands were nearly always the best students in the class.

If all parents read aloud regularly to their children, I believe we would have far fewer children with reading problems in the school system. Please read aloud daily to your children! It can make a real difference in their lives!

Are You Ready to Start Reading Aloud to Your Child?

Stories About Me has 16 stories for parents to read aloud to children, and your child is always the main character. The author has left blanks for the main character’s name, and you simply read your child’s name into the blanks. In the first seven stories, children visualize themselves participating in activities that introduce basic math concepts and vocabulary. In the remaining stories they see themselves learning or choosing safe behavior and just having fun. The book also contains ideas parents can use to help prepare their young children for success in math as well as in reading.

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More Great Books To Read Aloud

Junie B. Jones books (goodreads.com) by Barbara Park. Young children love the humor and dialogue in these fast moving, entertaining stories!

Benjamin Franklin (goodreads.com) and other biographies by Ingrid D’aulaire. These highly acclaimed books make history fascinating and alive for children. Beautifully illustrated and well-written.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  (goodreads.com) and other books in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Classic fiction I wouldn’t want my child to miss!

The Secret Garden (goodreads.com) by Frances H. Burnett. A classic story that makes you want to read the next chapter.

Pearl Harbor Is Burning (goodreads.com) and other books in the Once Upon America series by K. Kudlinski. Makes history interesting!

Johnny Tremaine (goodreads.com) by Esther Forbes. Fascinating, award-winning historical fiction to read aloud to 9 and 10 year olds (or older) who are beginning a study of the American Revolution.

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