Reading Aloud To Children

This article discusses the importance of parents reading aloud to their children, as well as tips for choosing age-appropriate books.

It's a fact: children whose parents read aloud to them grow up to be better readers and spellers, with better critical thinking skills. However, many parents see professional "experts" on television, with all their suggestions and training, and become nervous at the thought of reading aloud to their children. They wonder if they have the knowledge to keep their children interested in a book for any length of time. The short, reassuring answer is, yes, they do. Children are a generally uncritical audience, and it is enough for them to spend time with a parent, reading a book together.

The first thing a parent needs to remember is to choose a book that is age-appropriate. Better yet "" go with the child to the library and allow him to select a read-aloud book. Guide his choices, but if possible, allow him the final decision. The parent can choose a more advanced book, for multiple reading sessions, breaking the book down into smaller sections, or reading a chapter at a time. Very young children love mostly picture books, with just a few words on each page.

Children ages 4 through seven or eight are ready for more advanced books, often with a tangible plotline. One classic in this age range is "The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night." This wonderful book, with its "town-o, town-o, town-o" refrain is sure to capture a child's interest, and before long, he will be reading the rhythmic words right along with the parent.

Most of the Dr. Seuss books are great for this age, as well, and parents can enjoy revisiting other old favorites from their own childhood. This is a good time to bring up how Mom or Dad read this story, too, and how Grandma and Grandpa read it to them. Children are interested in what their parents were like as children, and this gives them common ground.

Older children will probably prefer chapter books that can be continued for several sessions. Some wonderful selections in this area are "Little House in the Big Woods," "Little House on the Prairie" and "On the Banks of Plum Creek," which are the first three books in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. Children of all ages love these books, as well as more fanciful works such as "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeline L'Engle or "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" from "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis.

Parents should simply choose a quiet time "" a Sunday afternoon, perhaps "" turn off the football game and cuddle up in the big armchair with the chosen book and the child. Funny voices and sound effects are always appreciated and even if they are not very realistic, the children will enjoy them.

Encourage the children to point out pictures they like, and what parts of the story they liked best. There are no wrong answers here, and the child is learning critical thinking skills.

Parents can schedule storytime, but it should be something the child looks forward to, not something that is merely another part of his regimented schedule of school, soccer practice and homework. Read-aloud is when time and commitments are set aside to create a little pocket of peace in the home. There should never be any hurry when the storybook comes out. Reading aloud before naptime or bedtime, or anytime, is ideal. During these times, the child should feel that his special time with Mom or Dad is exclusive to him. Nothing should intrude on this time. This is quiet time that should be sacred for parent and child. It will help relieve stress for both, and should never be taken away as punishment.

Storytime, besides building good reading skills, and forming the precious lifelong habit of reading, does something even more precious: it provides wonderful memories for the parents and the children. The bonds created during something as simple as reading a book aloud will last as long as the parents and children live.

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