Why do I read aloud to my kids (now ages 11 and 7) when they can—and do—read to themselves?
Reason #1: For Their Own Good
It turns out that reading aloud is good for big kids too. Research shows that kids’ reading comprehension level does not catch up to their listening comprehension level until late middle school or early high school. In other words, reading aloud gives kids a chance to enjoy more complex books than they otherwise could. Books with bigger words, more intricate plots, more challenging themes. Books that stretch them and help them grow as readers.
As read-aloud expert Jim Trelease notes, reading aloud can “broaden the menu” of books available to kids. That is one of the biggest reasons that I still read aloud to my kids. I find that when I make the choice and I do the reading, my kids are more willing to take a risk on a book.
For example, when I visited Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon two summers ago, S.E. Grove’s debut novel, The Glass Sentence, caught my eye. I picked it up, intending to read it with Blaine. We already had a big stack of read aloud books, so it was many months before we got around to it. Blaine was skeptical at first, but he decided to humor me. Soon, though, we were hooked. We ended up feeling like we’d made an exciting discovery.
More recently, I came across a copy of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web in our local library. I’d read it as a child, of course, and enjoyed the animated adaptation. So, I checked it out and presented it to Larrabee as a read aloud choice. He was agreeable but not wildly enthusiastic. His verdict: “I thought it was going to be boring, but it turned out to be good.” For my part, I found it as T-E-E-R-R-I-I-F-F-I-I-C-C-C as I’d remembered.
There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you know you’ll like, of course. But sometimes the biggest risks bring the biggest rewards.