Looking for a way to improve your child’s academic performance? How about ways to help him become a better listener? Or a way to improve her chances of success in school and in life? Taking the time to read aloud to your child can help you achieve all these goals and more, regardless of whether your child is young or old, able to read or not, or somewhere in between. All it takes is a 20 minute-a-day investment.
You may be wondering how you can possibly afford to squeeze this task into your already overloaded schedule. Consider these three facts to better understand why you cannot afford not to:
Fact #1: 20 minutes a day of reading exposes a child to about 1.8 million words of text each year.
Research has shown that a child with a large vocabulary does better in school than a child with a lower familiarity with words. This difference is noticeable from day one, as most instruction in the early school years is given orally. According to Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud Handbook, children with larger vocabularies are at an advantage because, unlike those with small vocabularies, they understand most of what the teacher is saying.
Trelease states that the children who are spoken to and read to most often are the ones with the largest vocabularies. Keeping in mind that we tend to use verbal “shorthand” when in conversation, children who are read to are at a greater advantage of developing a more robust vocabulary due to their exposure to the more complicated and sophisticated language found in books.
Fact #2: Reading aloud 20 minutes a day offers benefits to children whether or not they can read independently.
Regardless of their age or reading ability, reading aloud to your children is always a beneficial and worthwhile activity. One reason, according to Trelease, is that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. In other words, while your child may only be reading at a fifth-grade level, he may enjoy a book with a more complicated plot than he can read on his own. So, while he may not be able to read a seventh-grade level book independently, hearing one read aloud can prove to be both an exciting and stimulating experience.
Reading aloud also whets your child’s appetite for reading on her own. By reading to your child, you are not only modeling a desired behavior, you are exposing her to stories and genres she may not have otherwise discovered. This may in turn pique her curiosity to spread her reading wings and reap the benefits of developing her independent reading skills.
Fact # 3: Families who read together for 20 minutes every day get 121 hours of bonding time a year from those minutes spent together!
Today’s busy lifestyle makes it difficult to have quality time together with our children without distractions. Setting aside time daily to read aloud offers you and your children the opportunity to engage in the same activity and provides important bonding time.
Reading together can also open the lines of communication between you and your children and offers ways to tackle difficult issues. For example, your child may not appreciate a lecture from you on peer pressure; however, reading a story about a kid who gets in trouble after hanging out with the wrong crowd may give you the opening you need to be able to start a conversation on the topic.