A bedtime story is the cornerstone of the bedtime routine for so many years — but it slowly becomes extinct once a child learns how to read. But now more than ever is the best time to read aloud to your child, even if they already know how to read.
The benefits of reading aloud to your child are immense. Although they still know how to read, many children, pre-teens, and teenagers miss being read to and could benefit tremendously from reading aloud to them.
Here are 10 benefits to read aloud to your child, no matter their age!
1. Increased Vocabulary
“Can you use it in a sentence?” This question in a spelling bee is such a great question because listening to words in sentences is how we learn the meaning of them.
One of the most basic reasons to read to your child is to improve their vocabulary and understanding of words. Hearing words read aloud in new contexts helps children increase their vocabulary and comprehension. Most of us do not naturally speak in sophisticated language patterns or grammatically correct, so hearing it spoken gives your child more word exposure and opportunity to expand their vocabulary.
Believe it or not, picture books are written at a higher vocabulary level with more advanced sentence structure than many beginning-to-read chapter books, because they expect an adult to read them aloud. So even after your child has learned to read, continue to read aloud to them from picture books and more advanced stories as it does wonder to increase vocabulary.
2. Better Reading Comprehension
In this day and age, reading comprehension is a big buzz word with many educators. But all this really means is the ability for kids to understand what they read and make connections with what they already know. Good reading comprehension takes a story and considers what else is happening at the time of the story.
Even if a child is able to read on their own, it is still important to read aloud to a child because listening comprehension is higher than their reading comprehension level. For example, a child of seven or eight years old may not have the reading skillset to read The Wizard of Oz, but he can follow along just fine when he listens to it read to him.
3. Instills Heroic Values
When you read aloud to your child, stories come alive and children put themselves in the minds of the characters. This creates a great opportunity to teach children ways to treat others and instill heroic values from an early age.
The lessons told through stories can produce emotion, empathy and heroic values like no other medium. Think about the books that captivated you as a reader — some of the most poignant lessons we learn have been taught through heroic tales of other people’s experiences through books.
For example, think about trying to teach your child about courage and bravery. Which would be more effective: to give them a lecture all about what bravery means? Or to read them a tale, like Harry Potter, and your child puts themselves in his shoes as he approaches and attempts to fight Voldemort, showing the fear but his brave courageous fight against Voldemort?
4. Slows Down Time
The pace of family life is faster than it’s ever been. American families spend only 37 minutes of quality time together per day, according to a new study. The pace of family life is faster than it’s ever been. We go from school to work to extracurricular activities and our social calendar fills up quickly.
We also have the perception of being busy, thanks to smart devices. There have been many studies conducted and articles written on why multitasking actually doesn’t work. But in our digital age, the overconsumption and dependence of smartphones and smartwatches actually trick us into thinking we are multitasking and getting more done. When in reality, trying to do more than one thing at a time only ensure nothing is getting done well and we are actually wasting time.
When you read aloud to your child, however, time seems to slow down. It’s hard to rush and hustle around when you’re reading aloud. Just the act of reading requires you to sit, get cozy, and focus on one singular thing, and this will start to slow down time and create quiet moments in the middle of an otherwise hectic day.
5. Creates Connections and Intimacy Within Your Family
The family that reads together, stays together.
One way to ensure your kids will want to come back home, even after they enter adolescence or adulthood, is by creating a sense of family culture and giving them a secure place of belonging. A family culture has a shared language, shared experiences, shared responsibilities; this is important in order to create strong relationships in your family.
Reading together is such a great way to create a family culture in your home. When you read a book together with someone else, you create a bond with them, no matter what other individual differences you may have. If you read the same book together, you both experience the same journey and love the same beloved characters. It creates an open space to ask questions and share feelings on what you’re reading.
Similarly to the previous point, because modern families are going from activity to activity, our time for connection has decreased. When you read aloud with your family, however, it automatically sets you apart from other rest of culture.
6. Higher Performance in School
“People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does. It expands their interest in books, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and attention span. Simply put, it’s a free ‘oral vaccine’ for literacy.” – Jim Trelease
A magic pill for your kid? That’s what Jim Trelease calls the power of reading aloud to children. In her book The Read-Aloud Family, Sarah Mackenzie writes, “If you want to make sure your parental time and energy will make the biggest difference and strongest impact in your child’s academic life, look no further than the closest bookshelf.”
Studies have been shown that the more often children are read to, the higher their test scores are. Aside from learning robust vocabulary and increasing their reading comprehension, reading also helps students become better writers, which will benefit them beyond just the classroom.
7. Better Understand the World
“Fairy tales say that apples are golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found out they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” — G. K. Chesterton
Another great reason to read aloud to your child is that they will gain an understanding of the world we live in — and you will be right there with them to explain and answer any questions they may have.
Children naturally have an unquenchable thirst for information and curiosity about the world, and books offer so much to teach them. Of course, non-fiction books provide factual information about any topic children are interested in, but fiction books also teach so much.
Have you ever come home from church and someone asked what the sermon was about? Sometimes the only thing we remember from a sermon we just listened to wasn’t what the passage was about, but the examples and stories that were given in it. There’s a reason why pastors sprinkle in stories into their sermons — lessons and messages are translated so clearly through the transformative power of story.
8. Easier Way to Have Tough Conversations
Books can provide a wonderful way to open the door for sensitive subjects. It’s amazing how many parents assume children aren’t aware or curious about certain things we try to hide them from. And because we aren’t talking about them, children sometimes assume we don’t know the answers.
If there’s a topic you want to broach with your child, reading a book together is a natural and easy way to get the topic started. Whether it’s teaching your child about their body or about race in America or how to cope with grief, reading a book with your child will help you teach, instruct and guide a child through tough areas they face in life.
9. Creates Empathy
One of the best reasons to read aloud to your child is because stories create empathy within a reader. When a child listens to a story, they are transformed inside the mind of someone else and given a unique chance to see life through the eyes of another person.
Researchers have found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling. It is the transformative power of a story — giving us more empathy and understanding for others.
10. Reading Begets More Reading
The more reading you do, the more reading you want to do.
At first, depending on the age of your child, setting aside a time to read aloud as a family may come with groans and complaints (and maybe yours be the loudest!), but if you continue to make a habit of reading aloud, slowly you all will begin to love and cherish that time. And the more stories you read, the more you will discover there is to read. Books will come alive and a whole new world of reading will open up.
So be encouraged, parents! Those extra five minutes you take each night to read aloud to your child is worth it. There are so many benefits for your child and for you, that this time is never wasted.
Want to learn more? Here are some related links that will encourage you to read aloud to your child: