Have you ever wondered, “How can I help my child become a better reader?” or, “I hate to see my child struggling to read. I wish there something I could do to help.”
We hear these concerns from parents all the time, and we understand how you feel. While the techniques that we use to help children with learning differences become fluent readers in our Educational Therapy sessions require a good amount of training and specific tools, there is something quite simple and extremely effective that parents can do at home: reading aloud to your child. Although this may not seem very scientific there is actually a good amount of scientific data supporting reading loud as an effective strategy for literacy development and learning overall.
As one of our instructors, Gina Pierotti, shares, “As a child, one of my favorite memories involved a bedtime routine where my brother and I would snuggle into my parent’s bed and read a story together. When we were very young, my mom or dad would read a book we had chosen. As we grew older and learned to read on our own, we would take turns reading pages of our favorite books. These books opened our minds and sparked conversations with our parents. I loved it. Though I didn’t know it then, this was a habit of reading aloud.”
Now as an instructor who works with students who struggle to learn, especially in the area of reading, Gina sees how important reading aloud truly is.
“Oftentimes when I read aloud with my students to practice fluency, comprehension, and decoding in context, it prompts enlightening conversations on topics from justice to the wonder of the plant and animal world to human behavior. My students become so engaged that it allows them to really understand the purpose of reading: to communicate ideas!” Gina says.
Gina reflects how she is continually impressed by the opinions and understanding her students show in the conversations that follow reading aloud together.
“I see their confidence grow as they are supported in their reading, and see the effects of it – namely, access to more information and a reaction in the listener (them, or sometimes, me). This result is so helpful for children with learning challenges, since it keeps them motivated to do something that requires great effort.”
The Research Behind Reading Aloud
Trusted researchers have long known the importance of reading aloud and the numerous benefits it imparts in children. Reading expert, Jim Trelease and author of The Read Aloud Handbook, notes just a few of the benefits below:
- attention span
- provides a foundation for reading when young
- provides exposure to vocabulary when older
As Trelease writes, “By every research measure, reading is an accrued skill; that is, the more you read, the better you get at it. “The more students practice, the more adept they become, increasing their success in school.
An Optimal Environment for the Enjoyment of Reading
In our one-on-one sessions at La Jolla LearningWorks, we always try to provide an optimal, stress-free learning environment in order to encourage our students to try new things. Our instructors like Gina and others have found that reading aloud does just that.
“Reading aloud provides a stress-free environment for the child to benefit from the ideas communicated through text and conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure. This idea is more important than would seem at first glance; often, when students have a hard time learning to read, it becomes a chore. However, reading aloud relieves the pressure, and allows the children who struggle with reading to learn at their own pace,” Gina explains.
“I have often seen that in addition to work in phonics, children often grow in their confidence and willingness to try to decode words with practice in fluency and reading aloud. Sometimes we take turns, depending on what the student can currently handle without stress.”
Parents can make reading aloud an enjoyable experience and fun routine as students grow in their ability to read. We have seen students be far more willing to read, when they are practicing reading fun books with their parents at home.
Do’s and Don’ts
When parents ask what they can do to support their child in learning to read or increase their comprehension at any age, I always suggest reading, but there are a few tips for going about it.
- Choose appropriate books – Classic children’s and adults’ books are great. But anything would work, from magazines to comic books to chapter books. Stories with familiar characters in a series allow for some point of connection with the story. With any of these options, the children are reading. Besides spending quality time with their families (and away from electronics, screens, and digital media), reading aloud builds many different skills for all ages. Reading in different languages is great, too, as research shows that being fluent in reading and writing in a native language, can build success in a second language (for English Language Learners, for example).
- slow down and allow them to enjoy the pictures,
- have a lot of variety,
- talk with your child about the book
- Overwhelm your listener/reader with material above their emotional level
- Select a book if your child has already seen the movie
- Forget about the thousands of book and audiobooks we have access to through our libraries With technology, we have so much information and books and material available to us digitally, if this is preferred to physical hard copy books. A rich print climate – just having books readily available in the home, as well as magazines, etc. – can encourage reading (Trelease).
More information on choosing books to read aloud, as well as some do’s and don’ts are listed on Trelease’s website.
Reading aloud can build skills children need for school and life to become life-long readers, provide quality time with those they love, and open the doors to communication about the world to help them navigate it in the best way they can.
And, after all, isn’t that the purpose of reading?!
Please feel free to write any questions or comments below!
- Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York, Penguin Books, 2013.
- https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED253865.pdf (Becoming a Nation of Readers report)
About the Author:
This article was written through the combined efforts of Gina Pierotti, M.Ed., who inspired this blog post topic, and Megan Trezza, M.Ed., founder of La Jolla LearningWorks. Gina works with students of various ages in Educational Therapy, Test Prep, and Academic Coaching at La Jolla LearningWorks. She enjoys helping her students learn the skills they need to reach their individual goals.