While there may be controversy over exactly what we should and shouldn’t be doing with regards to early childhood education, there is one activity that is continually endorsed by all groups and that is reading aloud to children. In all my early child development research, I have never read anything contrary to this.
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease recommends reading at least three books a day to your child – one familiar book, one favourite book, and one new book. Of course, the idea of reading is that it should be a fun activity that your child enjoys, therefore, if your child wants to read the same book over and over, then that’s fine as well. You want to inculcate a life-long love for reading and many children go through phases where they like to hear the same story over and over.
Shichida recommends reading five books a day to your child at varying speeds – fast and normal speed.
Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm advocates reading to children as young as 4 months. The intention here is not so much to read the text from the book but to introduce the idea of reading to your baby. Starting with simple board books and cloth books, you can point out pictures and talk about them.
Whatever the philosophies about reading aloud are, the findings, results and conclusions are all the same – reading aloud to a child helps to develop that child intellectually in many ways:
- expansion of vocabulary
- learning to read
- inculcating a love for reading
Reading to your child is also a terrific activity that parents and children can bond over.
What should you read aloud?
Anything and everything. When Gavin was a baby, I would make up stories using his favourite cloth book about a buzzing bee and several animals. There were no words in the story so I would create the storyline myself. Was that part of the reason why Gavin loves stories today? I don’t know. But I do know that there is one thing that can stop Gavin mid-track in his activities and draw him over to listen – that is the sound of a voice reading a story.
When you’re a parent, finding time to read your own books can be a challenge. What better way to find the time than to read your books aloud to your children? I’ve read parenting and early child development books aloud to both Gavin and Gareth as they play or while they nursed.
I also read non-fiction books aloud to both boys – Tell Me Why is one of my favourites to read aloud to them, and the classics.
What can you do if you don’t have the time to read aloud?
You can play audio stories in the car. You can purchase books from Audible or you can check out the terrific list of websites with free audio stories shared by Teaching Our Own (thanks Irene, for putting me onto them):
- National Library Board E-Resources
- The Story Home
- Light Up Your Brain
- Kids Learn Out Loud
- Audio Stories for Kids
If there is only one thing you could choose to do for your child, it would have to be reading books out loud to him.