"What about me?": Reading aloud to older kids

Reading Aloud to Older Children Still Has Benefits

by Tori Hamilton, Children's Library Associate, Glenpool Library

Reading to babies and young children is one of the most important things parents and caregivers can do to promote literacy skills.

But many parents who faithfully read to their younger children every night often stop once those children are able to read for themselves. However, even older children benefit from being read to. According to Jim Trelease, author of "The Read-Aloud Handbook", kids listen at a higher comprehension level than they can read up until about the eighth grade. When young readers are only capable of reading simple words, some may grow bored with reading. If children have books above their reading level read TO them, it shows them what they're working toward.

So what can you do to incorporate read-alouds into the busy lives of your grade school children?

First, remember that you don't have to make this a "bedtime story" ritual, where they sti beside you and follow along with the words as you read. Once children know how to read, reading practice becomes less about the act of reading and more about comprehension. Many school programs that measure reading success, such as Accelerated Reader, allow students to test over books they've listened to rather than "read."

If your children want to multi-task - for example, coloring or playing with Legos on the rug while you read to them from the couch - let them! As long as they're able to follow the story, they're still benefiting from the experience.

Second, consider checking out audiobooks for when you're in the car together. Most midd-grade audiobooks average 5 to 7 hours in length. Even if you only spend ten minutes driving them to school and back every day, that adds up to almost two hours a week. When you add in all the trips to the grocery store, sports practices, or cub scout events, you'll find that you're spending more time in the car than you realize. The library has a wide selection of audio titles on CD and in digital format, including many of the titles on the Sequoyah lists. Give one a try.

Finally, relax! If you're not able to make reading aloud a nightly practice, that's okay. Consider reading one chapter every week. Make an event of it on a regular day and time, like you would for an episode of a favorite TV show. Consider reading books with seasonal themes and taking a week or two off between titles. Try starting with Neil Gaiman's Newbery Award winning "The Graveryard Book", a perfect selection for October, as each chapter is a self-contained story.

The most important thing to remember is that reading with your children is about so much more than teaching them to read. It's about spending time with them and sharing stories you love. The fact that it comes with so many literacy benefits is a happy bonus. Have fun with it, and keep reading!

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