This week at Sparkle HQ, we’re celebrating books. We, of course, love stories here, and books are just one of the many ways to tell and enjoy a good story. Enjoying the peace and tranquility of reading alone is something appreciated by us all, but we also love the benefits and joys of reading aloud. Listening to stories is a great way to get the basic benefits of reading, plus it can expose your children to more complex ideas in a way that is still comprehensible to them, and it can help create life-long book lovers.
We love reading for the sake of reading, but it is also great to know all the benefits of picking up — or listening to — a book. Reading, whether it be silently, aloud, or listening to a recording, is an incredible way to boost vocabulary, increase empathy, and reduce stress.
Understanding New Ideas
Young ones are generally able to listen to and understand stories on a higher level than what they read. Often times, you can expose your children to more complex ideas and themes through reading to them. What’s more, you can keep building their vocabulary, their skills around connection-building, and their ability to recognize and regulate emotions by exposing them to these higher-level concepts.
Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a researcher who published the study “Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development,” told the New York Times that “when parents read with their children more . . . they learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.” Your child might be three or four years away from reading on their own, but they can still learn concepts and vocabulary aurally.
If we view our own story-spinner David as the reader, the benefits of reading aloud become pretty clear. In Libby and Dish: The Feel Guide, Libby’s mother leaves for a camping trip and Libby has a lot of different feelings about this.
During her grandmother’s visit, Libby learns all kinds of useful words for different feelings and emotions that she might not have been able to place — feelings such as giddy, wistful, and overwhelmed. She spots how these feelings look in other people whom she and her grandmother pass on the street, and she notices how her grandmother puts these feelings into language.
Libby’s grandmother’s descriptions are just as helpful to listeners as they are to Libby, by Dr. Mendelsohn’s findings. The story displays emotions and feelings to listeners without requiring kids to guess or sound out a word like “wistful.” Young children are free to listen and make connections without the burden of trying to understand concepts that might be a few years ahead of them. Years down the line, when they do sound out the word “wistful,” they’ll be able to remember what they’ve heard and complete the connection between how the word looks, how it sounds, and what it means to them.
Fostering a Love of Books
Reading aloud to children creates the groundwork for another very important benefit — the creation of bookworms. Children gain an advantage when they’re able to explore big ideas within the context of a story read by someone they love and admire. This experience creates a positive feedback loop centered around the pleasure of reading stories. It is a calming, grounding way to enjoy some quality family time while still growing the mind.
How to Make Sure it Clicks
What makes this stuff really stick is conversation. The act of reading aloud is beyond helpful, but what solidifies connections, emotional recognition, and new vocabulary are the questions asked and answered.
It may be helpful to open the floor to questions — especially if you’ll be reading to multiple listeners, and if those listeners are at different ages or comprehension levels. Opening up the floor to questions allows curious minds to raise questions and allows others to form new connections.
If we look back at The Feel Guide again, the work pages allow children to draw their own faces and give names to their own emotions. The work of discussing, drawing, and thinking deeply about emotions transforms the story medium into a place for a personal practice that only furthers the meaning and impact.
Whether you like to do the reading yourself or you’ve invited David to serve as one of your family’s readers, we believe the benefits of reading aloud are unmatched. Reading alone is a great source of joy and happiness around here, but reading aloud is another fantastic option if your child is unable to read on their own, if you want to boost comprehension, or if you just want to spend some snuggly quality time together.
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie
Reading Magic by Mem Fox
Not yet a subscriber? Try a free trial HERE.
Photo credit: @christyhermogenes via Twenty20
About the Author
Molly is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in Radio, TV, and Film. She has just to moved back to her home in Austin, Texas after graduation and loves all things involving colors, fruits and small animals.