Why I (Still) Read Aloud to My Kids, Part 4


Why do I read aloud to my kids (now ages 11 and 7) when they can—and do—read to themselves?

Reason #3:  For The Conversations

Books make great conversation starters.

Some of these conversations are silly:

Others are more serious. For instance, all kids have had the experience of envying—and being envied by—a friend or sibling. But jealousy can be a more difficult emotion to name and understand than happiness, sadness, or anger. Situations in books can help prompt conversations. Here are a couple that come to mind:

Books can also provide teachable moments. For example, Greg Heffley, the protagonist of the hilarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney, often makes bad choices. Some people criticize the series for teaching bad lessons, but I think kids are perfectly able to judge for themselves, for instance, that it’s wrong for Greg to let his best friend take the blame for something he did wrong.

I love it when an episode in a book leads to an interesting conversation with one of my kids. I also treasure the little moments when something in real life reminds my kids of a book we read together.

Why I (Still) Read Aloud to My Kids, Part 1

Blaine and Larrabee in rocking chair
Favorite reading spot, September 2009

I started reading to Blaine when he was too young to follow the story. He just wanted to point at the pictures and practice his new talking skills. (“Quack!”) His pudgy fingers often turned the pages faster than I could read the words.

Soon, though, he came to love stories. He also figured out that showing up with a book in hand was a good way to get my undivided attention. We read his favorites over and over again. We read them until he had committed the words to memory and could “read” them to me.

Eventually he started to enjoy longer books—even books without pictures. During that phase, Larrabee was born. He too grew from a little person who chewed on books and sometimes ripped their pages to a bigger person who listened intently and always demanded one more chapter. The three of us spent a lot of time in the rocking chair in the nursery with a good book.

My boys needed me to read to them in those early days because they did not know how. And they learned so much from books—everything from new words to listening skills to an understanding of how stories work. Most importantly, they learned to love reading. Research shows that reading aloud to young children provides all these benefits and more.

But my boys can—and do—read to themselves now. And yet I still read aloud to them. Why? Over the next month, I’ll explore four reasons.

For Parents (and Kids) Who Love Stories

Beth and her two boys

One of the joys of parenthood for me is sharing stories with my kids. I love curling up on the couch to read aloud. I love making up stories during long car rides. I love helping them find books in the library or bookstore and reading the books they recommend to me. I love family movie nights. I love reading the stories and comic books they create.

I’m working on a children’s book of my own now. And it’s got me thinking about what my kids and I like in a book, what engages our imagination, and what stays with us long after we’ve closed the covers of the book.

This blog is about the imaginary friends that my kids and I find in stories. It’s a place for me to to share book reviews, original stories, and musings on the task of raising readers, writers, and storytellers.