Why do you choose to read-aloud to your children? If your neighbor or your in-laws ask you why do you read so many books to your children, what would you say? Sometimes, having an answer prepared can help us understand our own motivation. If you check Google and homeschooling blogs, you can certainly find many lists of books that parents should read to their children….but ultimately, what does your family value? What is your family trying to achieve? What are you hoping books will do for your children? These are some big questions!
I come from a family who read a lot of books together. My husband’s family was the same. It’s natural to us to have books around and to read them aloud. It’s a part of our family life. We are blessed to have space for bookshelves, and we have a growing collection of good quality books. When my kids and I go to the library, sometimes we max out our library card at 100 books. That seems normal to me. We might not read all of those books together, though, because I have two readers now. My 2nd grader reads at a 5th grade level, and my kindergartner reads at a 3rd grade level. They love reading books. I love when they are reading on their own and I hear a giggle or a deep belly laugh because they are enjoying the story! My 3-year-old loves books; anything with pink, purple, or ballet slippers are a hit. If she finds a book with all three, she flips through the pages over and over again.
Now the big question: Why do we do read-alouds?
1. I read to help my children enjoy a good story.
2. I read to help them develop virtue. We discuss the good and bad habits and choices of characters.
3. I read to help them experience how fun reading can be.
4. I read to help them learn new words. They can ask, “What does that mean?” Or if I realize it’s a word they probably don’t know, I can teach them about it. With my toddler, I can point to pictures and ask her what they are called; this helps build her vocabulary.
5. I want them to learn how to pronounce words correctly. Hearing an adult read helps children learn how words should be spoken.
6. I want to model to them what they should be doing “in their head” when they silently read to themselves. When my children read silently, I not only want them to visualize what they are reading, but I want them to invoke all of their senses. I want them to make a girl’s voice sound different from a boy’s voice. When they read in a book “…and suddenly, there was a mysterious knock at the door,” I want them to be surprised and jump because they “heard” the knock by using their imagination. I want them to make a story “come alive” in their head. But how do they learn? By having an adult model how to read stories! When a child hears a story read by an adult who is acting out some of the story in simple ways, the child is experiencing a model of what the child should do while reading silently. I don’t mean parents need to take classes on being a professional story teller. Simply changing one’s voice for different characters and adding in a few side effects does wonders (e.g., knocking, wind, whistle, sneeze).
7. I read to help my children think about new ideas. Reading brings up new topics to discuss. While we read, if the children have a question, we discuss topics that a typical conversation might not every bring up.
8.I read to expose them to far away places and to unique characters.
9. We do read-alouds to have a shared experience. My children are close enough in age that we can find books that we can enjoy together, even if not everyone is comprehending the book at the same level.
10. I read-aloud to help my children learn to sit still and pay attention for an extended period of time, as a part of a small group.
11. I read-aloud to help their minds focus on ideas that are most important to our family.
12. We read books that complement what we are learning while homeschooling. If we are learning about the weather, chemistry, or history, we can find books about those topics.
13. We enjoy books that we have read in the past and loved, and we read new books to find “the next good book” to read again and again. I love when we check out a ton of books from the library and we discover new books that are incredibly charming.
14. I want to expose my children to good stories.
15. I read-aloud to show them that I love them.
16. I want them to know that I enjoy spending time with them.
17. I read-aloud to help them develop their imagination!
Now here’s a big question for you: Why do you read-aloud to your children?
If you have not read much about why read-alouds are important, you really must read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease for an introduction. I highly recommend his book. (I am in no way affiliated–I just like this book!)