You’ve read to them since they were a little baby. They’re now a book-loving independent reader. Your work is done. You have decided it’s time to stop the bedtime stories. Surely, its best for your child if you stop the reading aloud so they have more time for silent reading?
I’m here to convince you otherwise. It is not time to stop just yet!
By around the age of seven to nine, children can usually read fluently enough to enjoy reading independently and they should be encouraged to do so. Reading independently is a skill of its own and should be worked on, but this does not mean you should stop reading to your children altogether. Reading aloud is about their listening skills too.
A parent contacted me recently to ask when she should stop reading aloud to her child. She said her son loves to read and he can read everything he wants by himself. These are very good points and give you two very good reasons to stop. However, reading level and listening level are NOT the same thing!
Reading Level and Listening Level are Different!
Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, urges parents of “good” readers not only to consider what level they’re reading on but also the level they’re listening on.
Children can listen on a higher language level than they can read, so reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible and exposes children to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of everyday speech. A child’s reading age, in general, catches up with their listening age around the age of 13.
Hence, if you continue to read aloud books which are above your pre-teen’s reading level, the benefits are the same as reading to them when they were little.
So when should you stop reading to your child? When they have had enough. This will happen quite naturally around the age of 13, but if they still want to, you can still enjoy reading together, or just enjoy quiet time, reading independently, side-by-side.
According to Scholastic’s ‘Kids & Family Reading Report’, only 17% of parents of children aged 9 to 11 read aloud to their kids, yet 83% of children aged 6 to 17 said being read to was something they loved. So, remember to just ask your child if they want to be read aloud to.
Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children:
Here is a quick recap of the benefits of reading aloud to your child, but if you would more detail, please read my blog post The Important of Reading Aloud
1. It helps develop their vocabulary as they hear new words daily.
2. It increases their concentration.
3. It provides entertainment and enjoyment through many different stories and characters.
4. It develops their imagination as they explore new worlds and meet new characters.
5. It offers a safe way to explore emotions when they may not be able to verbalise how they are feeling.
6. It gives you time to builds bonds between you and your child.
There is also another we can add to the list:
7. It enhances writing!
Around the time most people stop reading aloud to their children they start expecting more from them as writers.
As children grow, they are required to write exciting stories and detailed reports to succeed in school. And if you ask pretty much anyone how to improve writing skills, they’ll tell you to Read, READ, and READ some more.
But is that enough? Apparently not.
Andrew Pudewa, Director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, explains that good readers don’t necessarily become good writers. To be a good writer you need to be able to communicate ideas in an understandable way and use appropriately sophisticated language patterns.
Pudewa says to achieve this we need regular exposure to this type of sophisticated writing to be able to store and then replicate it in our own writing, which becomes difficult if we only do independent reading. Here’s why…Even the BEST readers often read quickly and skip words, phrases and sometimes even whole paragraphs! Are you guilty of this?
For this reason, good readers often miss out on the types of language needed to transform them into talented writers. So, what can we do to ensure children can develop their writing even once they can read independently?
That’s right… make sure they are LISTENING to well written stories!
Benefits of Reading Aloud to Older Children:
Here are a few more benefits of reading aloud to your older children:
It allows them to enjoy books that are above their reading age- it lets them enjoy the flow of the story without getting frustrated with the reading.
It improves their vocabulary as they hear a range of new words which might not be in their everyday language.
It gives you important one-on-one time together.
It can expose them to new authors, styles, genres, etc.
It is a great way to model fluent reading to them, including expression, pace and dialogue.
It stimulates conversation, giving you the opportunity to discuss different scenarios, difficult subjects and personal opinions, which is important as children grow and often communication between parent and teenage child often breaks down.
So when should you stop reading aloud to your child?
Read aloud when they are babies. Read aloud when they are toddlers. Read aloud when they are children. Read aloud when they are pre-teens. And continue to read aloud to them until they tell you to stop!
Let’s go from RAISING READERS to RAISING WRITERS!