“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.”
— Kate DiCamillo
Today when the bus arrived Kaylee said she wanted to take the book with her to school. No Way! I am NOT letting her read on…. We are reading this book together and loving every minute of it. It was tempting to not just finish the chapter while the bus pulled away, but I resisted. It will be much more fun to finish the chapter when she returns. As much as I love to read and as much as I want my kids to love reading, reading to them is still something that I have to be very intentional about. Sharing a book together and reading aloud doesn’t just happen, It takes two parties agreeing on the same activity at the same time. However, it is definitely worth the effort.
A study once found that if you ask a kindergartener if they like to read books outside of school, 100% of the students will say they do. But, if you ask a fourth grader that same question, only 54% agree. What changes in that student? By the time a child reaches fourth grade, they can read independently so instead of a parent grabbing a book and inviting the child to read with them, the parent hands a book to the child and tells them to go and enjoy it…..alone. Reading stops being a shared activity and may become a chore. Reading aloud to your children is the single most important contributing factor to their success in school in ALL subjects.
In addition to the academic benefits to reading aloud to your child, you will also find many other perks. Any time spent with your child is an opportunity for bonding, but time spent reading is a guarantee for quality time. While reading, you are focusing on your child and one book. You can not multitask, you can not entertain other distractions. This will show your child that reading is important and even better, time with them is important.
Reading together also gives you the opportunity for many discussions. Characters in your book may or may not be like your child, you may or may not agree with their choices and you can discuss these things with your child in a non-threatening way. What easier way to talk about a school bully than by reading a story about one? You can then share your experiences and maybe how you would handle the situation differently than the character. Also, your child may open up to an experience they are currently going through.
I don’t like to fish so putting on my boots and heading to the pond with my son is not a way I want to spend my afternoon, but sitting on the couch under an afghan with a book about fishing is definitely something I’m willing to do. Books allow us to experience activities, hobbies and interests with our children that would otherwise not occur. I have no intentions of swimming with the sharks….but I can read about it!
Most parents know and recognize the importance of reading to children & do it naturally with their young ones, but I find that even the most attentive parents need a little nudge to keep reading aloud to their children as the children get older. Kids are never too old to be read to and they will begin to read to you too. It happens often in my home…I read an article in the newspaper out loud, my son shares something he’s reading on his phone. We DO read aloud to each other, we just need to be more intentional about it.
And, parents of adopted children have to make reading together even more of a priority in their homes. Many adopted children come from less than stellar backgrounds. The children may be behind academically and reading will help them improve their vocabulary and comprehension skills. In addition to that, reading together is a non-threatening way to have a child sit on your lap or near to you and for a child to share stories & experiences and ask questions. Sometimes it’s easier for a child to initiate conversation when their eyes are diverted to illustrations on a page.
I hope after you read this you will find a child and share a book with them. I have to go now. The bus will be here soon and I can’t wait to see how Mallory and Mary Ann will be able to keep their pinkie promise!