I’m not really sure where or when my love of reading began, but I know it’s a love that I was very fortunate to have encouraged and enabled by the adults in my life. I was raised by parents who read for themselves and also read aloud to my brother and me. Books were – and still are – plentiful in my house. Reading is a “cozy” activity for me. Whether it was snuggled up with my parents, my stuffed animals, or the couch and cats, it has always brought me a feeling of comfort, quiet, warmth, and safety.
When I was growing up, books didn’t have as much competition for attention as they do today. To find out the effect of all that competition, Scholastic has commissioned the biannual report Kids & Reading since 2005. The report surveys parents and their children ages 6 to 17 about their reading habits. This year’s report came out a couple of weeks ago and it is a combo of some good news, some bad. Kids still like to read print books even if they have access to an e-reader, and despite screens and flashy entertainment everywhere, kids do enjoy reading. Yay! The not so great news is that they are reading less for pleasure than they used to, especially as they get older. The report draws a lot of conclusions, but the one that stood out to me was the key finding that kids really like being read to.
Of the parents surveyed, most stop reading to their kids when they were about 6 years old, the reason being that they wanted the kid to become an independent reader, or that the kid could read on his or her own. Both are valid points, and are important skills to encourage as the child becomes a stronger reader. But then the report found this:
Four in 10 children ages 6–11 who were read books aloud at home (40%) say they wished their parents had continued reading aloud to them.
When it comes to being read aloud to at home, more than eight in 10 children (83%) across age groups say they love(d) or like(d) it a lot—the main reason being it was a special time with parents.
Even though the kids could read on their own, they still wanted to be read to and spend special time with their parents. Doesn’t that just make your heart melt a little bit?
Most people know that reading aloud from birth through early childhood is good for verbal, vocabulary, and mental development. (Here at BookPeople, we offer storytimes three times a week for young kiddos.) What most people don’t know is that reading to older children may be just as important to their cognitive and verbal skills. It can also be a completely new learning & discussion experience and bonding opportunity for parents and kids.
But everyone is so busy. And distracted. It can be hard to muster the energy or find the time to do some reading aloud every day. Fifteen minutes a day is all you need and it can be at any time of day, not just bedtime. So what should you read with your child?
Let the child pick the book. The report also found that, “Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say ‘my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.'” We see many parents and other adult caregivers come into the store asking our staff for books their young reader will like. We love recommending books and we do our best to recommend something that sounds right for the child, but there is nothing like having the kid pick the book for himself or herself. They know what interests them and what their friends are reading. It also gives the child a sense of control. Trust the child to pick something that they want to read. If you have older kids, it can be a little more daunting to know what to read together. Bank Street College of Education’s Children’s Book Council has excellent tips for reading aloud with children aged 12 and older.
Being read to is something we never outgrow. I read The Hunger Games trilogy to my husband over several weeks – a little each night – and he loved it. Reading aloud isn’t supposed to be a chore. It should be fun for adults and kids. So grab a book, cozy up, and enjoy the read.
BookKids staff pick their favorite read alouds:
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean
I have read this to my 2 1/2 year-old grandson, and he loves it. I enjoy reading and then stopping so he can fill in the words. He’s learned his colors with this book, and it’s simple enough that he can learn the words, too. Plus, there is a song that goes along with the book!
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
This is a favorite to read aloud because it’s always a surprise for the kids when the chicken interrupts. It’s so much fun to watch the kids react. It also has a sweet ending.
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
I just wrote about reading with my young son, and many of our favorite read alouds are summed up there. One of our favorites is and most-read concept book has to be Have You Seen My Dragon? because it has everything: numbers, colors, and gloriously intricate black & white line drawings hiding a dragon on each page. I also used to read aloud to my best friend in college, and I agree with Tommy – our favorite read-aloud at the time was The Hobbit.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is a perfect kids’ adventure story. It’s great to read aloud because there are so many characters that each need their own voice. I like to do voices. (Bookseller Althea adds that the Redwall series by Brian Jacques would also be fun to read aloud and listen to for the same reason.) The Hobbit is an epic adventure, the likes of which were once told around a hearth or campfire. It is also written in the style of folklore, which is meant to be told out loud. It’s perfect.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The aforementioned Hunger Games trilogy. I didn’t plan on reading these out loud to my husband. I wanted to reread the first two books before I read the third book, and as a joke, I started reading aloud. Then I stopped, but he wanted me to keep going. So I did. I liked reading these out loud to him because it was fun to see him react to the story and we were able to talk about and question parts of it. It actually made me look at the stories with a more critical eye. I also liked reading it out loud because it made me read it slower than if I was reading it to myself, and I caught details that I missed when I read it the first time.
*The quotes from kids are from the Scholastic report, Kids & Reading 2015.