Ask any person who works with children and they will tell you that it’s quite obvious which kids have been read to on a daily basis. Children who are read to each day have more expansive vocabularies, stronger communication skills, a longer attention span, and are more imaginative, creative and proficient.
Studies show that 77% of kids are read aloud to five to seven days a week between birth and age 5. Typically, most parents stop reading aloud to their kids after they are able to read for themselves, about the age of seven or in second grade. Only about 20% of kids are read aloud to after the age of eight. While children who grow up with books may take the reins and seek out books to read for themselves, Alzein Pediatrics explains why parents should continue to read aloud until children are at least twelve or thirteen years old.
First, it is common for children to comprehend books and subjects two or three grade levels above their own grade if they have been read to daily. However, as kids get older, the subject matter and words in books grow more sophisticated. When you’re reading an 8th grade level book aloud to your fifth-grade child, you can stop reading to explain something they may not understand. Even better, when characters in the book make poor decisions, you have a moment to discuss the behavior, why the actions are wrong, how they hurt the other characters, and how the badly behaved character is also affected. You can also brainstorm together better choices and what might have happened if the character had made a wiser decision, all in the words and tones which your particular child will respond to and understand.
A child’s listening vocabulary is greater than their reading vocabulary. Because some words are more complex, or they are not spelled as they sound, your child might not initially understand the word if they are reading silently. Your child better understands new words when they hear them aloud in context. Reading aloud also gives both you and your child the opportunity to look up words to clearly understand their meaning together. A child’s reading and listening vocabulary become more equal at about thirteen years old, in about seventh grade.
Reading aloud to your child also makes them more empathetic, attracting them to new ideas and concepts to explore. For many parents, reading aloud has the super, amazing, incredible and wonderful benefit of keeping kids away from screens. Instead of using often anxiety-causing social media, internet and texting, your child will be happier, with better sleep habits and stronger self-confidence.
Bonus – when you continue to read to your children as they get older, you can introduce them to your favorite genres like science fiction or history. With your guidance, they will discover new authors and more complicated literature. Many children would be overwhelmed at the idea of reading a 400- or more page book at the age of 10, but with parents reading aloud, they can discover the magic of Hogwarts, the dignity of Abraham Lincoln and the distant planets of Asimov’s robots and spaceships.
Reading to your children also strengthens your bond as you discover each other’s interests and passions. It also preserves your one-on-one time as they get more and more involved in school and outside activities.
Read aloud to your children and you’ll be giving them a gift that lasts their entire life. Award-winning novelist T.C. Boyle told a group at a book festival that he learned to read not in school but from his mom reading to him – and that when he reads now, he still hears her voice in his head. Isn’t that a beautiful image of love?
Pick up a book when you visit any of our Alzein Pediatrics offices! We have a variety of reading choices to share with your child and just love to hear you reading in our waiting or exam rooms!