We often forget the benefits of simply slowing down our lives and reading a good book.
And, too often, we do not realize the benefits of reading a book to our child. I often hear from past students. and many of them remember the stories I shared with them. They mention lessons they had learned from those 15 to 20 minutes I paused and shared my love of reading with my class. Others convey that while I read those simple stories, they felt loved and accepted and that I had given them so much more than just a story.
Parents can get so consumed with the everyday burdens of keeping things together that they feel the time spent reading to a child is wasted. On the contrary, reading to your child is one of the most beneficial uses of your time.
For the non-reader, listening to a story introduces words and sentence structure. It helps develop communication skills and story sense. It provides a time when the physical contact is up close and personal. It creates a bond between reader and listener. Reading to your child plants a seed that books are filled with exciting adventures and motivates your child to learn to read.
For the emerging reader, listening to a parent read introduces not only a whole new source of vocabulary, but an example of fluency and expression. As a child listens, he develops his “reading ear,” that inner ear that listens as you read to yourself. This is a time you can share reading with your child to build confidence and comprehension. It provides your child with a time that a story can be enjoyed without the stress of decoding words.
Many parents stop reading to a child as he becomes a reader himself. Parents give a sigh when their child sits down and reads a book. But it is so important to continue to read to your child. It provides an opportunity for conversation and debate over what is being said. It is also a great time to introduce different genres to your child. Poetry, non-fiction and directions are good examples of alternative genres. Revisit old favorites that your child enjoyed when they were younger. I always marveled how my fifth-graders would gather around when I would drag out those first-grade picture books. One of most rewarding activities I did with my fifth-graders was having them share with kindergartners their favorite storybook. Both age groups benefited. The younger ones were introduced to the joy of reading and a new exciting story. The older ones had the joy of sharing something they loved with someone else.
The elderly speak of the inability to read as one of the milestones in the aging process. Fading sight and weakened hands take the joy of reading away. Even as time takes its toll, the simple act of reading something to someone else can bring joy and create connections. Have your child share a favorite book with someone that may not be able to read anymore.
Listening to a story can take your child away to somewhere else, build and motivate reading skills, relieve tension, produce a bond between listener and reader, and create so many lasting memories. So many reasons to go forth and read!
Kathy Schwartz is a retired elementary school teacher and serves as a parent education consultant.