Becoming a Nation of Readers (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott and Wilkinson, 1985) presented among its findings that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” This landmark Commission on Reading report also indicated reading aloud in the home is an essential contributor to reading success, and that reading aloud… is “a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”
What powerful motivation to include reading aloud as part of a homeschooling schedule! Most families however, see read-aloud time as an activity for younger children only. But as the report states, the practice should continue because the benefits of reading aloud don’t diminish as children grow older.
For the very young child, being read aloud to sends a multitude of important messages. The time spent with the reading parent is a vitally important bonding time. The young child gets the message that the act of reading is important, fun and desirable. Even though the child may not begin to read himself for several years, the underlying knowledge needed for reading success is being developed.
As a child enters his emerging reader years, the act of being read to still maintains a place of importance. Motivation becomes key factor in reading success, and being read aloud to keeps that motivation alive. It shows that reading is important and is a skill valued by the family. While the emerging reader listens, he takes note of the sounds of words, how punctuation is used, and begins to develop a personal vocabulary. As the books read aloud become longer, and the words become more difficult, a growing reader is able to gain access to new material with support.
One might think that reading to an older child is not a valuable exercise, but that is far from the truth. It is one of the best ways to promote independent reading in older readers. Because most children listen at a higher level than they read, reading aloud is an opportunity to present material they may have difficulty accessing on their own. Reading aloud may motivate a reluctant reader to try material previously thought too difficult. Reading aloud to older readers also stimulates fluency and vocabulary growth. In addition, taking the time to discuss the reading material is excellent preparation for higher level critical thinking and writing.