Kara C White
Read Aloud to Grow Together
It's one of the best reading days of the year!
Get your whole family involved in the literary action by celebrating World Read Aloud Day, Wednesday, February 2nd. This worldwide initiative was founded by the group LitWorld in 2010. Now millions come together to take part each year. Take a few minutes out of your day to share a story with the children in your life by reading aloud from a picture book, short story, or chapter book.
Why? First of all, because it's fun!
Instilling a love of reading fosters growth in children that goes far beyond basic literacy aptitude. Family read aloud time can help forge stronger bonds between children and caregivers. Reading together creates shared memories of stories and laughter. Reading aloud can also open the door to conversations about everything from silly jokes to family history to values like fairness, honesty, and responsibility.
Kids who read build more than their literacy skills; studies have also linked a rich reading life to greater empathy. Parents and caregivers can nurture this kind of growth by reading aloud for just a few minutes a day or several times a week. I think most parents understand the importance of reading aloud to their children, but it can feel hard to fit it in to an already busy schedule. Some parents may even feel nervous or intimidated by reading aloud. Read on for my recommendations....
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Keep books handy. A neatly-organized bookshelf looks pleasing, but leave out a book or two on the table or night stand where it's easy to see. Let those books serve as a visual reminder to read aloud as a family. And if your kids' bookshelves are so overcrowded you can't even pull out a book to read aloud, consider my tips for reorganizing your collection. Also, keep a book or two in your car. Why?
Read aloud time can happen anytime, anywhere. We often have a few minutes in the car while waiting for an activity or appointment to begin or end. Turn down the radio, put away the phone, and pick up a book to read aloud. (One side note, clearly don't drive and read at the same time-- that's what audiobooks are for!)
Read aloud time as part of a soothing bedtime routine is lovely, but don't limit yourself to this one small part of your day. If a breakfast story works better for your family, go for it! Perhaps taking a few minutes in the late afternoon would be best. You know your family's schedule; choose a time that works for your unique family.
Toddlers won't sit still for a book long-- if at all! Keep read aloud time brief (it still counts!) and let them roam just a bit while you read. They can still listen even while building a block tower or fiddling with their blanket. Also, look for books that involve the reader with cues to touch the pages, clap their hands, etc.
Older children who have been reading on their own for years still benefit from read aloud time. If they're hesitant to join in because it's too "babyish," you may have to get creative to get them involved. One way I do this is to cast "roles" in a picture book where older kids have to read aloud a certain character's dialogue or a word or phrase that appears often in the book. Other times I'll pick a book that I know was one of my older child's favorites and start reading it aloud to my younger child. It doesn't take long before he's wandered over to have a look and to start listening.
You can, but you don't have to do all of the voices. If you love making stories come alive with dramatic readings of dialogue, by all means have at it! However, if feeling nervous about doing a "good job" is holding you back from even trying a read aloud, take a new perspective. Kids don't need to hear a classically-trained actor read to them in order to reap the rewards of read aloud time. Your kids need, they want, to hear you. They want to hear your voice. Sure, do your best to make it fun, but read aloud time doesn't have to be over the top to be enjoyable.
Ready to read aloud? Great! There's no better time than World Read Aloud Day, Wednesday, February 2nd. My family will be taking part, and I hope your family will be, too! If you need some suggestions on books to read aloud, check out my Best Picks for Picture Books or Picture Books for Snowy Days.
Best wishes for further reading (aloud)!
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