by Virgina Knowles

Reading aloud is a child’s first introduction to good literature. Why is this so important?

aloud connects parent and child. It links you together in a personal
way around interesting ideas and words. Young ones are soothed by the
sound of our voices. I tend to be so much more calm when I am snuggled
up on the couch enjoying a great book with them, rather than chasing
them around the house trying to keep them out of mischief. Reading
aloud builds warm memories, too! What will they fondly remember looking
back to their childhoods — pages upon pages of worksheets or the great
stories they read with Mom?

Reading aloud gives your child
a splendid vocabulary. Good literature is rich in descriptive
vocabulary. Your child can gain an impressive arsenal of new words to
use in speaking and writing. A child can encounter a word in print, and
even know what it means, but not know how to pronounce it. Is the word
charade pronounced CHAIR-ray-dee or shuh-RAID? If he hears you say it
while he is looking at it, he can make the connection and hopefully
remember it the next time.

Reading aloud prepares a child
for learning to read. Study after study has shown that being read to
often as a young child is one of the crucial factors for success in
learning to read and in performing well in the rest of academics! The
more words a child has in his spoken vocabulary, the easier it is for
him to decode them when he sees them in print. He also knows how
sentences flow, and can figure out new words from the context of the

Reading aloud allows you to teach your child
information about the world. This is especially important in the early
years. Easy phonics books are fine for “learning to read” but many
children aren’t fluent enough to comprehend core curriculum content
(literature, history, geography, science) until they are eight or nine.
How will they get maximum exposure to these subjects without being
driven to frustration? Reading aloud is the key.

aloud gives your child the benefit of your wisdom and knowledge. Even a
child who can technically read the words may not fully understand the
concepts in a book. He doesn’t have the storehouse of background
information and insight which you possess. When you read aloud, you can
explain things as you go along, and check to see if your child
comprehends the ideas. I even do this with my middle school students
for history.

Reading aloud keeps you intimately involved
in your child’s education. You know what they are reading, because you
are reading it with them. You have a common experience that you can
talk about later. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the story that we
can’t set it down. I’ve been known to read aloud over 100 pages in one
sitting on more than on occasion! Yes, I was hoarse when we finished,
but these are “moments with momentum.”

Reading aloud sets
an example of serving others. Use the power of imitation! What they see
us do, they will do. As I’ve gotten busier with our family of ten, my
children have found ways to help fill some of my gaps. I love to see my
preschoolers and even our young neighbors lined up on the couch with
one of my daughters reading aloud to them! It’s a great way to get in
some extra reading practice, too! It boosts their confidence to know
that they are making someone else happy at the same time. This is such
a practical way to use reading aloud as a service to a busy Mommy and
eager tots.

I implore you to continue reading aloud to your children all through the preschool and elementary years (and beyond)!


all there! Set aside everything else you are doing. Let the answering
machine take care of phone calls. Cuddle up on the couch and enjoy the
story with them! Oh, that sounds so cozy and sweet. Yet often it is
such a jumble of little bodies with jostling elbows and kicking feet
wanting to get close to Mom and the book! What’s a Mom to do? If you
have three children wanting to listen, seat the smallest two next to
you and let the oldest one sit next to the youngest. Or, have them take
turns sitting closest to you, perhaps for the book that they personally
chose. I must admit that sometimes my children even drape themselves
over the back of the couch to get a good view.

Use an
expressive voice, changing your tone and style for different
characters. The classic example of this is that when you read
“Goldilocks and the Three Bears” you vary your pitch for Papa Bear,
Mama Bear and Baby Bear. Children love this! If you have a hard time
being spontaneous, then read the book ahead of time to yourself and
practice it. Or, take a clue from the “experts” and visit the library
during story hour to see how the children’s librarian does it.

your child pause and study each page. He may want to point out or count
various objects, or express his opinions about the story. If he doesn’t
offer spontaneous comments, you might ask: “Where is the blue boat?” or
“How many birds are on this page?” or “Is it night or day in this
picture?” or “What season is it?” or “What do you think that Sam is
feeling right now?” or “Why did she do that?” Some children love this,
some don’t, and some like it once in a while. Be sensitive to your
child’s desires each time you read.

Ask your child to
“tell back” what you have read. When a child has a longer attention
span and can remember things that aren’t right in front of her at the
moment, you can close the book and ask, “Can you tell me what happened
in this story?” or “Tell me what you thought about ______ in this
story.” Charlotte Mason used this method of oral narration to determine
whether a child understood what had been read. This is such a natural
and powerful method of evaluating comprehension — much better than
fill-in-the-blank worksheets! Whether or not you use oral narration, be
sure to give your child a chance to contemplate what you have read (or
what he reads independently), before rushing on to the next item on the
school agenda. He should delight to ask himself questions about what he
is learning, not because someone else will quiz him on it, but because
it is worthwhile and interesting.

Encourage your child to
act out the story. Get out the dress-up box and let her choose costumes
and props to go along with the story. Make finger puppets or hand
puppets, and put on a show. A blanket draped over a piano bench makes a
fine puppet stage.

Don’t be afraid to read the same books
over and over and over. This develops auditory memory. After a while,
your non-reading child might be able to repeat whole pages word for
word after seeing the picture as a cue. My oldest daughter memorized
whole picture books word for word when she was just two or three. She
was so proud of herself that she could “read” as we turned each page.
It’s such a valuable pre-reading skill! When you get to a word that you
think your child remembers, pause and see if he fills it in for you. If
not, just read it and keep going. Many stories and poems, such as “The
House that Jack Built” use repetition, which makes it easy for your
child to participate in the reading process.

Aim for maximum
interest. Stop reading a book if it turns out to be boring for your
children. You may need to give it a few pages to get going, but if it’s
really a dud, bail out before you ruin the experience for your
children. If you have to interrupt a great story, leave it at an
exciting spot so your children will be eager to get back to it. Don’t
be too surprised if they try to sneak off with it and finish it by

Excerpt from the book "Common Sense Excellence" by Virginia Knowles