When should you stop reading out loud to your child? Many parents think the time to stop is when a child is able read on their own and doesn’t seem interested in snuggling time before bed. It's important, many assume, to encourage children to practice fluency, feel confident and proud about their new reading skills, and support a child's growing independence. And sure, all of these are good reasons to encourage older children to read independently every day.
The good news is that you don't have to stop that magical read aloud time you’ve had together since your child was small. Teachers in middle grades continue reading out loud to their students, saying it is a special time of the day to share books they love, introduce their students to new genres, and teach new vocabulary and concepts.
So, snuggle up together with a great book. Introduce your older child to stories with powerful characters, setting, and plot. Share your favorite classics, or read a book from a genre your child doesn't normally choose to read. For a brief moment, you can escape to another place and time - together.
Besides the obvious benefit of spending quality time with each other, reading out loud to older children improves listening skills and memory retention, provides an opportunity to hear language patterns and words that are not part of everyday life, develops the imagination, and expands knowledge of people and ideas from around the world and in different historical times. When you read out loud you also introduce new vocabulary words and concepts, and teach new facts and information.
As you read out loud, take moments to put the book down and talk about what you are thinking, wondering, and feeling. For example, choose stories with characters dealing with difficult issues, and discuss whether you agree with the character's choices. Parents of younger children often read picture books to teach morals, social skills, and discipline. Reading novels out loud can have the same impact when you take time to discuss what you read.
Need suggestions for good books older children might enjoy?
Stop by your local library and ask the librarian for a list of popular books for certain age groups. Check out the collection of Newbery Medal award-winning books. While searching through the stacks, you may find a book you loved when you were young. Take it home and read it out loud to your child. If you have a special memory attached to the book, be sure to share it. Sometimes parents learn that their child doesn't appreciate the same books they once loved, so be sure to let your child know that reading taste is personal and it is okay to have different opinions about a book.
Teachers can often suggest good books. Your child's language arts teacher may have ideas for books that would be a hit, and steer you away from books your child isn't likely to enjoy. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, a bestselling guide to children's books and reading for parents and teachers, includes a treasury of excellent reading choices.
Be sure to ask your child if they have a book in mind for you to read together. Kids often hear about good books from friends.
The academic benefits of making time to read aloud together are great, but don't turn it into homework time in disguise. Instead, sit back and enjoy spending time together.