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Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud

Posted by Jen Robinson on November 2, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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Back in 2007 I wrote a post on my own blog called 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. This has remained a popular post, and people have suggested several other tips in the comments there. I've decided to expand upon each of these tips, and create a new Tips for Growing Bookworms series here at Booklights. Of course other Booklights contributors talk about tips for encouraging young readers here, too, as in Terry's Bedtime from Afar post from last week. But I say, we can't focus on this important topic too much. So, without further ado:

MomReading.jpgTip #1: Read aloud to your children from (or even before) birth, as often as possible, and keep reading aloud to them even after they can read on their own. Reading aloud has been shown to have a huge impact in raising readers, and is the number one thing that parents and other concerned adults can do to help grow bookworms. By reading to kids in a comfortable, safe environment, you help them to think of reading as a pleasurable activity. You also increase their vocabularies and attention spans, and show them that you think that books are important. And with all of the many wonderful books out there, reading together should be enjoyable for you and the kids.

DadSonReading.jpgIt's especially helpful when Dads or other male caregivers can participate in at least some of the read aloud activity. This shows boys that reading isn't just something that girls do, but rather something that's fun for everyone. A recent survey by UK charity Booktrust found that "some 67% of mothers of four to five-year-olds claim to be the principal reader, compared with 17% of fathers, although many more fathers were said to be reading than in last year's survey." The Booktrust study (as reported by BBC News) found that 96% of children surveyed reported enjoying reading, but also reported that only one in three families read with their children every day. I would personally love to see that last statistic increase.

ReadingOlderKids.jpgIt is, of course, tempting to think that once your child can read on his or her own, you can stop reading aloud. However, if you can find the time and the motivation to continue reading aloud with your older children, your whole family will reap rewards. You'll be able to read books that they aren't ready to read on their own, and share the experience of discovery. You'll be able to introduce your kids first-hand to the books that you loved as a child, and talk about why you loved them. You'll be able to discuss all sorts of topics that are raised in books, allowing you and your kids to learn from and about each other. Andrea Ross from Just One More Book! wrote a wonderful article for Canwest Newspapers last month about the benefits to parents of reading aloud with their children.

Of course sometimes it's hard to find the time for read-aloud. But I promise that if you do, you and your children will find the time well-spent. For parents who aren't comfortable reading aloud, you can listen to audiobooks together (libraries have audiobooks you can check out), or turn the pages of a picture book and make up your own stories. Children, young children especially, are a forgiving audience. They'll find the attention and the closeness and your time much more important than your particular pronunciation of a word, or the fact that you aren't skilled at giving the different characters distinct voices. The more you try, the easier it will get, too. See also Susan Kusel's post at Booklights about the ups and downs of reading aloud.

Reading aloud together. It's enjoyable time for parents and kids. It helps kids to do better in school, and builds family closeness. And it's free (all you need is a library card). It is well worth a try. Do any of you have success stories or tips that you'd like to share about reading aloud with your kids?


Terry writes...

What a wonderful idea for a series! Reading aloud is a great way to kick it off, too. I particularly liked your points about the importance of dads reading. As you mentioned in the Roundup, communities are starting to create programs to help engage dad. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for those statistics to increase.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks, Terry. I would love to see those statistics for dads increase, too. I do think that programs like FRED have the potential to really help - because surely once most dads start reading more with their kids, they'll find it addictive.

Jean writes...

Thanks for keeping this important notion fresh in the minds of all parents and caregivers.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

You are very welcome, Jean. I know this tip wasn't the most original idea. But I think it's important enough to keep talking about on a regular basis. Thanks for the validation!

Lara writes...

Thanks for revisiting these tips! What a gift reading aloud is for ALL involved. You have that shared experience to build upon with your child or loved one. Keep up the great work!


Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks, Lara! I do agree that reading aloud is a gift for all involved. Hopefully every year, more and more people will know that.

Pam writes...

Yes, yes, yes! Wonderful post, Jen. Reading aloud is so important. It's how children learn about the flow of stories, the strength of words, and the power of inflection. My children (7 & 9) can now read for themselves but at home we usually don't. We take turns reading, sometimes each taking up the voice of a particular character. It's something I hope we don't stop doing for a long while.


Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I hope that your family is able to keep reading aloud together for a long time, too, Pam. Thanks so much for your positive feedback!

Mary Hope writes...

Reading aloud is part of the bed time routine that my husband is in charge of. So he began reading aloud to our baby when she was just 8 weeks. She's now 9 months and get excited when we pull out "Cleo the Cat" and "Moo, Moo Brown Cow." I can't wait to introduce her to my favorite books from my childhood.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

That's great to hear, Mary. Reading aloud is an amazing gift that you and your husband are giving to your daughter, and to yourselves. I think that it's just going to keep getting more rewarding as she gets older. Thanks for taking time to comment!

BookChook writes...

Great post, Jen. I've found that some dads who aren't comfortable with reading a story aloud from a book, will be happy to talk about the pictures, or even discuss pictures in store catalogues with their young kids. The key element as you say is associating pleasure with reading.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks, BookChook! It's sad to think that just because people, dads or whoever, might not be comfortable reading a story, they miss out on the whole experience. It's more about talking and snuggling together and sharing ... something. Book, magazine, or, sure, store catalogs. Whatever works, I say. Thanks for chiming in on this!

I so agree with you. A few months ago I wrote a guest post over at Steady Mom called Reading Aloud to Older Kids .

Reading aloud needs to start young and continue, ideally, as long as there are children at home!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Well you know I agree with you, Caroline. Thanks so much for commenting!

sara writes...

We found a little gem at Borders the other day.
"The Turtle Story" is my 6 year olds' favorite book. It's written in rhyme, which helps her read more fluently and it has a wonderful environmental message. When we are done reading the story, she tells me why its important not to litter: " so the turtles can live in their habitat" she says. I highly recommend this one for learning readers.

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