Reading Aloud to Older Children: a Lost Art

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 
― Albert Einstein

In the course of my work with families, I am often asked by parents to provide book lists for their children.  I leap gladly at the opportunity to share my passion for reading and recommend books that I know will ignite their children’s imagination. Eleven years of facilitating book clubs for children has given me extensive insights into the spark that can be created when a student enjoys a book for the first time.

Despite my inward leap of joy when parents ask me for book lists, I am all too aware that the books I recommend are ones that they will give to the child to read on their own.  While of course we should be encouraging children to read in their spare time, parents rarely consider the lists I send as something they can share with their child by reading aloud.  

Of course, most parents recognise the importance of reading aloud to their child and do so from an early age.  However, once a child gets older and is spending more time reading to themselves, this practice often declines in frequency.  Yet there are so many benefits to continuing:

  • Access to wider range of texts: Reading aloud is the perfect opportunity to introduce children to books they would not pick up themselves.  
  • Modelling vocabulary:  Secondary reading requirements are vocabulary rich. This is great for children, but it can also be a challenge: “Secondary students encounter 10,000 or more new words per year in their content area texts” (Hougen, 2014). By reading aloud to children, we give them access to a wider range of vocabulary, and the opportunity to discuss its meaning.  
  • Improves comprehension:  As children engage with the text being read to them, they gain a greater understanding than they would if they read it on their own.  The opportunity to discuss the texts enhances this comprehension.
  • Encourages further independent reading: Children can be inspired to read the remaining books of a series on their own.
  • Children enjoy it!  A study by Susan Ledger of Murdoch University which was published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education (2018) found that children had a positive attitude toward being read to, reading aloud and reading independently. Reading aloud was generally considered a luxury or reward and a break from other curriculum areas or ‘real school work’. 

Albert Einstein certainly recognised the importance of continued reading aloud and its link with intelligence.  As teachers, I see it as a vital part of our role to shout the benefits loudly from roof tops, helping parents to see the value of continuing to read aloud to their child.  

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