We are always told about the importance of reading aloud to our young children. We are urged to read aloud to them so they’ll in turn fall in love with reading and want to learn how to read by themselves.
But what do we do once they’ve become independent readers? We stop reading aloud to them of course. What’s the point of reading to them if they can already read themselves?! A common conclusion…but a faulty one.
My eldest is now an independent reader devouring short novels at a rate of one per week. Yes, really. Hard not to be reader in a house of books I suppose.
So why then have I not decreased the amount of time I spend reading aloud to him? Why have I instead worked hard to increase the amount of time we read aloud?
People who don’t know us have asked, “Can’t the boys read?” when they hear how much we read aloud to them. This is a very normal thought process as people do not see the value of reading aloud to their children beyond reading age.
I would suggest that reading aloud is barely valued as highly as it should be even with the younger crowd. It’s probably one of the first things that people drop on a busy day. But they shouldn’t. In our house, on a rushed evening, if it’s a choice between having a shower or bedtime stories we’ve been known to ditch the showers and sneak one in in the morning instead. My boys wouldn’t let us skip stories. What a horror!! I must admit I’m the same though. Even if I crawl into bed in the wee hours of the morning I still HAVE to read. I’d rather be tired the next day than miss my reading. Prioritises folks!!!…Hehehe.
So why bother with all this reading? You don’t get it?
Well it wasn’t until recently that I truly started to see the value of reading aloud. I knew it was a good thing and that I should do it but it was Andrew Pudewa who made the benefits clear to me and motivated me to increase the time we read aloud, especially as my boys get older.
No it wasn’t a personal one on one conversation with Andrew…oh I wish…I was listening to his “Nurturing Competent Communicators” audio and I HIGHLY recommend that you spend the $3US to purchase a copy of your own. I promise you it’ll be the best $3 you ever spend on your child’s education. (He also has a summary of these concepts in one of his free articles but the audio is better.)
Let me try and outline what I learned from that audio.
Andrew talks about the myth that good readers will naturally become good writers. As a teacher I used to say the very same thing to the parents of my students. “Get them reading and they be good writers” but it didn’t necessarily work out that way. Yeah they were often the better writers but they weren’t “good” writers. Not by a long shot.
To become a good writer you need to be consistently hearing, as Andrew says, “reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns” that you can then put to use in your writing.
Why can’t we learn these language patterns from reading to ourselves? Because good readers read fast, scanning and skimming as they plough through book after book. They don’t focus on every single word so the language patterns they form are incomplete.
Where then do we learn these sophisticated language patterns so vital to becoming good writers? Certainly not from peers, the media or even interactions with family members. Have you guessed where I’m going with this? Yes…reading aloud to our children is where they can experience “reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns” that will support them as they become good writers.
So when we stop reading aloud in the younger years we’ve only completed half of the literacy task. When we continue on reading aloud to our older children we move past developing good readers and onto the equally important task of developing good writers.
Are all the pieces falling into place now? You see my eldest can read now but he’s yet to become an independent and competent writer and THAT is why I continue to read aloud to him in massive amounts.
Seems so simple doesn’t it.
Why haven’t I heard all of this before? Why did I never hear this at University somewhere in the SIX years that I paid to be educated about education. Hmmm…not feeling value for money in THAT education!
And it makes me so glad that my boys aren’t at school and that we have all the time in the world to teach them to write by reading aloud to them.