It is every parent’s dream to raise smart children who would excel in every aspect of life. As a parent, you would want the best out of your child. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, here is one little secret – reading aloud to children has proven to be a great way to give them a good head start in the right direction. I had my parents read aloud to me, and I can guarantee you that the benefits of reading aloud to your kid are numerous and cannot be overemphasized. Kids are quite impressionable and they would pick up life skills such as attentiveness, creative expression, and emotional intelligence from you reading to them. However, the list seems endless. But first, we’d begin with benefits at school.
Reading aloud to your child has a high impact on the child’s performance at school – better grades and interactions with classmates. Your child would definitely stand out.
Your child would develop key literacy and strong language skills – listening, word fluency, proper grammar usage, tone inflection associated with punctuation marks, a wider vocabulary, and correct sentence structure. All of these would reflect in their own speech patterns. They would be able to detect bad grammar and excel among their peers. This goes a long way to conquer shyness when speaking to people or in crowds because they are sure of their diction.
Now, to the benefits at home:
Reading aloud to your child creates a positive association with books and reading. It helps your child to inculcate the reading habits, to understand the power and beauty of written words. The reading culture could start with storybooks, but soon, the child would delve into other books to satiate curiosity and gain knowledge.
As a parent, you can assess your child’s personality by reading books with life lessons to aloud to them. Instead of quizzing them, ask the child’s opinion about the characters he/ she resonated with. This would help to gauge the child’s thought process. Your child might feel bad for the villain in a story, with valid reasons too. This brings a fresh perspective and opens up more conversation.
Bonding: Reading out aloud has proven to be therapeutic for both the parent and the child because it is relaxing. When you read to a child, it serves as a great source of memories later in life. Also, you would never run out of what to say to your child, often sharing inside jokes and making references to characters in the books you have read together.
We are in a constant battle against children getting addicted to television and phone screens. To effectively cut down on screen time, it is paramount that you have another source of curiosity for growing children. Books fill up that space conveniently. They would not feel like they are missing out on anything if you occupied their time by reading aloud to them. They begin to aspire to be bold like the characters in their comic books or be kind to animals like Snow White was. The constant engagement by reading out loud motivates the kid.
Children often associate their parents’ voices with comfort and security. They fall in love with the sound of your voice before they can recognize words on books. Reading aloud to your kid eases anxiety and soothes the kid. It is an effective way of calming distressed children down; for example, after an appointment with the dentist, feeling stressed about the first day at school or a squabble with a friend in the playground. This can easily be likened to singing a lullaby to a baby. It’s like magic!
It is common knowledge that children tend to be restless. Getting them to sit still is usually a feat. You should find books that interest them and break them into the story by reading aloud to them. This could help capture their attention and gradually, maintain the full attention for longer periods of time. It could be as little as reading one page daily. With time, they would begin to yearn for more and become more willing to stay for the reading session. This would improve their performance in school subjects and in real-life projects.
You can help your child learn empathy at an early stage in life. Books are limitless and your child can read about someone else’s reality. At a tender age, my mother read the story of Cinderella to me. I remember feeling bad about how she was treated cruelly by her stepmother and stepsisters. I wanted to help her. I was on the lookout for a real-life Cinderella so I could step in and defend her. It made me feel sad that people are mean to each other. That is the power of books and it has motivated me to be a better person. Books teach your kid about relationships, situations, personalities, and what is good and what is bad in the world we live in. Another popular book that can evoke empathy and awareness in your kid is Charlie and the chocolate factory. It has a couple of life lessons in there.
Reading aloud leads to visualization of events in your kid’s mind. Through the pages of a book, they are transported to another world where they can experience, for instance, the rich colors of Tokyo, the hot air balloons in Albuquerque, or even within the imaginary walls of Hogwarts. You can use it as a medium to teach your kid about world-famous sites and diverse cultures. Your kids can also create their own stories from imagination. Too often, they have their own spin-off stories. Children start to keep diaries and talk about their imaginary friends from the stories you have read to them. They even ask the most unlikely questions that you have not thought about. They picture the words in their heads, trying to make sense out of it all. Reading aloud to them has the creative juices flowing and the questions keep flowing. This makes children be more expressive.
Here are some tips for reading out loud to your child:
- 1. Find books with themes/ topics that are of interest to them. Many children aspire to be astronauts, singers or superheroes. This representation in the book would pique the child’s interest and it would be easier to settle into reading the book to him/ her. The attention would be undivided and at that point, the child is just like a sponge – absorbing every single detail and probably committing it to memory.
- 2. When you find a book in the children’s section of the bookstore, make sure to read through first. Browse through random pages and be sure it suits your child’s age. Their titles are always catchy, but you have to familiarize yourself with its contents. You would not want to be caught off guard when reading out loud to the child. Also, you have to read the book alone, so you can add suspense and thrill to the reading experience with your child.
- 3. It is important that you like the book too. Remember, reading out aloud is a shared experience. If you don’t like the book, it would be difficult to hide it. This goes without saying that you have to develop interests in what your child loves.
- 4. Choose books that feature a character your child can relate to. Children always have their own issues in their little worlds – the girls do not feel pretty enough, the boys get bullied by mean and stronger kids. With a book with the same kind of challenge your child faces or something related, you can show them how to overcome their challenges, stand up for themselves and build self-confidence. Remind your daughters that they might not be the most popular kid at school, but they light up your world and that is all that matters. Teach the boys that bullies are scared and they choose to lash out on the innocent. Always draw up your lesson after a reading session and make it resonate with your child.
- 5. Get in a comfortable atmosphere. This should be a space where they can feel relaxed, comfortable and safe. It is also ideal to change the reading environment from time to time. It could easily be the child’s bedroom or the living room. Some days, it could be outdoors.
- 6. Start small. Reading out to your child does not have to be for long hours. As little as 10 minutes daily, thrice a week should suffice. You can test the waters with how interested the child is after each session. Match their excitement and increase how often you read aloud to them.
- 7. Pause in between to explain new words. Slowly enunciate words with multiple syllables. Make them repeat the words after you. This enhances their understanding of how to use words.
- 8. Make it interactive. Swap parts and make the child sound the words out. It is always gratifying to observe your child pick up the reading pace and eventually become an avid reader.
- 9. Make the books accessible to your kids. They might want to impress you by reading ahead. Encourage their enthusiasm.
- 10. Alternate and diversify the materials being read. It could be a storybook about a princess on Monday and a topic from the children’s encyclopedia the next day. The wider the range of subjects, the better for the child’s development. It would not be helpful for the child to have a niche interest in books.
- 11. Work with a timetable. Let your kids know what time to expect you to read to them. Sticking to just before bedtime is quite common and convenient.
It is important to note that as your kids grow, the knowledge expands and evolves. They could start with an interest in pets, which could develop into an interest in big cats and carnivores, and soon, they would be reading about wildlife, veterinary science, and so forth. You might have limited influence over what your kids read as they get older.
Also, we often forget that reading aloud to your kid is actually beneficial to you too. You would end up with independent thinkers and as they get older, the dynamics would shift. Your kids would be the ones to suggest new literary sensations to you. You would have created a lifelong habit and effortlessly bonded with your kids for life. They would keep you on your toes, often stretching your choices, exposing you to new authors, genres, and texts. If you play your cards right, they could even read aloud to you.
With its benefits ranging from creating an emotional attachment with your child to deepening knowledge, comprehension, and grammar, reading aloud seems to be the surefire way of instilling life skills in children. It expands their imaginations and makes them yearn for more, hereby forging the love for books and reading. There are no age limits for reading aloud to your child as we know that children are all unique and they mature differently.
However, most children begin to read independently at the ages of 8-11. Usually, at this point, the habit has already been formed and you can play the passive role of expanding their library and monitoring the materials they are exposed to.
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