For years, expecting parents have been advised to read to their children beginning at birth. Classic board books are a staple baby shower gift and a bookshelf a common addition to any nursery.
The lifetime benefits (emotional, academic, financial, etc.) of reading to young children have been widely studied and acknowledged for years. Any parent who followed through on this advice knows clearly the positive impact it has had on their children.
However, as children grow and begin to read independently (a skill that tends to develop early in kids who are read to early on), children are more frequently left to enjoy their books on their own, reading quietly to themselves before bedtime, for example.
Reading Aloud Declines Sharply for ‘Big’ Kids
A 2014 study by Scholastic found that more than half of children ages 0-5 were read aloud to at home 5-7 days per week. For 6-8 year olds, however, the practice dropped down to 34 percent. For kids ages 9-11, only 17 percent were similarly read aloud to at home.
The study also found that nearly 1 in 4 parents of children ages 6-17 stopped reading aloud to their children before age 9, citing most frequently reasons related to their children reading independently.
But ‘Big’ Kids Still Love It
In the same study, when kids were asked about being read to at home, 8 in 10 ages 6-17 said they loved or like it a lot.
It’s Not Too Late
If story time at your house has become a thing of the past, you’re obviously not alone, and it’s not too late to pick back up this wonderfully beneficial habit, even if your kids are “big.”
Here are five big reasons to make time for reading aloud to your big kids:
A Child’s ‘Listening Level’ Is Higher Than His ‘Reading Level’
Jim Trelease, author of “The Read-Aloud Handbook (a fantastic resource!) describes this idea of a child’s “listening” vocabulary in contrast to his or her reading level. “Children can hear and understand stories that are more complicated and more interesting than anything they could read on their own—which has to be one of God’s greatest blessings for first-graders,” he jokingly states.
As children get older, parents can help them delve into all manner of stories or ideas that interest them by reading books aloud that would otherwise be a challenge.
The Joy of Sharing a Book Together Reinforces the Idea that Reading is a Joy
As children advance through school and school aims to measure their level of reading via tests and other assignments, reading itself can seem more like work or a chore and less like a pleasurable activity.
Parents can combat this by simply enjoying books with their kids. This is a super simple concept but one that could reshape a child’s relationship with reading and, ultimately, learning.
Listening to a Story Advances an Understanding of Speech, Language, and Storytelling
The educational benefits of reading aloud to your kids go beyond developing their reading skills. They’ll also be taking in lessons about pronunciation, speech, emphasis, story structure, and storytelling in general—communication skills they’ll carry through every facet of their life.
Reading Aloud Daily Is a Peaceful Ritual They’ll Treasure
When you look back at your own childhood, it’s likely some of your fondest memories will be of those simple things your family did on a regular basis. Reading together daily can most certainly have that impact. If your big kids were to look back at the times you used to read together each night, would they do so longingly? Why not bring back this wonderful habit into your family’s routine.
As kids get older, their schedules get more hectic, and their levels of stress and anxiety can increase. Ending each night peacefully reading together can have a significant impact on the quality of their lives and help to wind down each day in a most enjoyable way.
Reading Together Is Bonding Time
As you share books filled with fanciful stories and interesting facts, you and your children will benefit immensely and continue to strengthen the bond you have. Sharing books together can lead to great discussions and may inspire other projects, interests, or family adventures.
Such time together may also encourage more open sharing among one another and simply provide more opportunities for communication with your kids—something that becomes increasingly important as they get older.
So, if it has been a while since you last read to your kids, carve out time tonight and invite them over for a good book. You may be surprised at how ready they are for that invitation.