The Hidden Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children

by NDFAuthors

  • Apr 19, 2016

Reading books aloud to children, no matter how old they are, has a variety of positive benefits besides engaging kids in life-long reading.

In the past most children experienced the unpleasant routine to carry home weights and weights of textbooks whereas today’s youngsters simply turn to electronic versions of books on their tablets or computers. This technological development may save time, space and weight but there is no scientific evidence that shows that it will help children in the learning process of memorising and understanding information. In turn, research suggests that there is one simple technique that promotes children’s learning and reading skills: taking time to open and read an actual book aloud.

Why Does Reading Aloud Matter?

The national campaign group Read Aloud has raised the concern that more than one in three children start kindergarten without possessing the literacy and language development skills necessary to succeed in life-long learning. According to the findings of educational studies, researchers are confident that parents who read aloud to their children support their kindergarten and school preparation more successfully than parents who do not engage in reading aloud. This means that the typical storytelling routine is not only a calming or entertaining tool but it may also help children to develop a better vocabulary, improve the ability to read and encourage the passion for reading in adulthood.

A review in the Archives of Disease in Childhood concludes that parents who are engaged in the activity to read aloud to their children foster language development skills and the interpersonal relationship between child and parent.

Copyright: gpointstudio

Copyright: gpointstudio

Studies demonstrate that the years from birth to age 3 are the most critical in the development of language skills. This is because children often quadruple the number of words they know between their first and second birthday leaving some children with a 30 million word gap in comparison to their peers at the age of 4 when parents to not read stories aloud to them. According to national Read Aloud campaigners, reading is the only activity that helps young children to increase their vocabulary, familiarise themselves with printed words, improve listening comprehension and enhance their own creativity. The campaign’s website quotes studies that found out that children who lack an extensive vocabulary in kindergarten do not have the ability to read at grade level by the end of first grade. As a consequence, these kids also have an 88% risk of still missing the reading grade level by the end of fourth grade. In the long run, children with low reading proficiency rates are also four times more likely to leave school before graduation.

The Struggle of Reading Aloud in Practice

Despite this evidence, many parents and teachers do not read aloud to their youngsters at home or in the classroom at all or only irregularly. This development fosters an environment where children cannot develop their full potential when it comes to a diverse vocabulary and many children even lack critical language skills such as using full and complete sentences. A report published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics revealed that only 64% of families read to preschoolers each day. The number even drops below 50% in families who live on low income. The statistics also show that children who grow up in low-income households are less likely to have access to print materials. Reversing this trend is very important, given the fact that the number of words a child knows when starting kindergarten is a key predictor of success in the future.

Copyright: Olesia Bilkei

Copyright: Olesia Bilkei

Why is this? The teaching in the classroom is dominated by oral conversations. Teaching happens through talking rather than reading. This means that the children with the largest vocabularies have an advantage because they understand most of what the teacher is saying but the children with small vocabularies have difficulty keeping up and understanding what it going on.

Parent’s Decision to Raise a Reader

Fortunately, parents have the ability to positively influence this development by the simple activity of reading books aloud to children from a young age. The good news for families is that this activity is literally free of charge when borrowing books with a library card and only requires the willingness to spend some quality time with the youngsters. Research shows that even as little as 15 minutes are plenty of time when reading aloud to children each day from a very young age in order to see enhanced vocabulary and knowledge development skills in the long run. This is because scarifying 15 minutes each day for five years adds up to 27,375 minutes or put differently, 480 hours of reading and listening time. All these hours will support children in learning to read better, thinking better and imaging more richly and creatively. Besides these long-term benefits, there is also the immediate enjoyment to share an interesting book and spending quality time with the kids.

No scientific evidence that electronic tools help children to memorise information: