May 20, 2017

Reading Aloud as a Family: 6 Benefits to Reading Aloud

Reading Aloud as a Family
I am so excited to share a guest post with you about reading aloud as a family! This post is written by Melissa Turney and we go WAY back. Like back to 4th grade. We had so many different clubs under the stairs of my parents house. We were obsessed with American Girl dolls, Phantom of the Opera, and the list goes on. I am so excited about the topic she is writing about because I think it is important and I think she is a rock star at it!
It started with Charlotte’s Web. My four-year-old daughter had just started pre-k and I decided it was time to begin reading chapter books together. After all, we’d been reading picture books and poetry her whole life, and while that was wonderful I’d been not-so-patiently waiting for her to become old enough to enjoy longer, more complex stories. I’d grown up in a home with a mother who took me to the library weekly, and who designated daily reading time, and a father who read aloud to me clear until I moved away to attend an out-of-state university. It was only natural that I’d continue the tradition of reading with my own children. As someone who’d been read aloud to as a child, I anticipated my daughter would experience the same sense of magic, security, and love that I did growing up. What I didn’t anticipate was the pure elation that I would experience as well. We laughed as poor na├»ve Wilbur bumbled through his first live experiences. We cringed when the egg Templeton was stashing broke and penetrated the farm with its rancid smell. My daughter wiped my tears as I read passages like, “Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. ‘I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.” The experience was incredible from the first page to the last.
Since that moment we’ve read countless stories together from classics like Pippi Longstocking to modern favorites like A Series of Unfortunate Events. Our small book club has extended to every member of our family as they grow old enough to listen. My husband and I take turns picking and reading books. Each of us has a different style and taste so it brings diversity to our book club. Recently, we’ve stopped using our DVD player in the car and opt instead for audiobooks on long road trips. Even our three-year-old will laugh out loud listening to stories like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Capitan Underpants.
For many families, reading aloud together is a treasured experience. For my family, we’ve forged a bond over reading that seeps into our everyday conversations and has cultivated our family dynamic. We’ve found immense joy through reading aloud.

Reading Aloud as a Family
The benefits of reading aloud have long been researched. Some of my favorite benefits include:
Reading aloud enriches vocabulary: Much of our current society is lacking in sophistication in regards to language. A limited language database could be the culprit. According to a study done by the University of Michigan, on average, children ages 2-5 spend 32 hours a week in front of a TV—watching television, DVDs, DVR and videos, and using a game console. Kids ages 6-11 spend about 28 hours a week in front of the TV. What a HUGE influence that must have on their language. How do we even attempt to amend that? Reading quality literature in large quantities.
Reading aloud enhances communication skills: Whether they are for information or entertainment, books are all about communicating ideas from the author to the reader. The more exposure children have to receiving and interpreting communication the better they are to communicate clearly in the real world. Dialogue heavy books allow both children and adults to experience interaction from an outside perspective and internalize it so it can be utilized in their own lives.
Reading aloud increases understanding: The more we are exposed to books, the clearer the world will seem. Even as an adult, my understanding of text is increased when I listen to audiobooks along with, or in lieu of reading in my head. Sometimes something as simple as an inflection in a voice, or a pause in the passage will help the story make sense.
Reading aloud creates a unique space to teach morals: I can’t count the number of times we’ve stopped in the middle of a chapter to discuss the implications of a character’s actions, or to ponder a character’s motives. Through reading, I’m able to expose my children to situations they might come across with their peers or choices they might have to make in the future, and we can talk about it in an environment safe from the direct consequences.  
Reading aloud cultivates empathy: Okay, this one isn’t exclusive to reading aloud but it is one of my favorite benefits of reading. Reading allows us to get inside people’s experiences and crawl around in their brains in a unique way. It expands our knowledge of people’s lives and help us realize our similarity to them. Reading allows us to destroy stereotypes. Stories change us. They have the power to expand our very soul, and reading aloud as a family helps to create the habit of becoming lifelong readers.
Reading aloud creates family bonds: Carol Joy Seid said, "When you read out loud as a family, you don’t leave your living room, but you’re in Switzerland with Heidi and you’re in Africa with Patricia St. John. Your experiencing, and you’re making friends that the whole family knows and you’re creating a shared vocabulary and you know how to play Pooh sticks and you know how to drive like Toad. So it’s the shared bonding experiences without ever leaving your home for the price of a free library card that makes your family cohesive and gives you a secret vocabulary and private jokes that make you one and make you close. And with adoptive children and high need children that are having a harder time attaching as a family, these are the ways where you cry together, you laugh together, you travel together on the pages of books and makes you one like the mortar between bricks." This is the experience we’ve had together. My favorite memories with my family are long road trips laughing at an audiobook, or the image of my children sprawled out on the floor under a blanket fort listening to my husband stumble through the BFG’s awkward dialect. It’s the widening of their eyes and an audible gasp when a plot twist is revealed, or my son quoting Count Olaf, or the sound of my girls begging for one more chapter.

The best part is that reading aloud to your child requires only a book (free, with a library card) and your willingness. The sacrifices are few (though it isn’t always easy), the benefits are many. More than the long-term educational benefits, you get the pleasure of spending time together and enjoying a good book.
Reading Aloud as a Family



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