“My child is able to read books independently. Does this mean I should stop reading aloud to them?”
I can’t tell you how many times this question has come up in parent-teacher conferences over the years. It is so exciting to watch as children become more skilled as readers and gradually need less and less support to read their books. Understandably, many parents think that once their child can read on their own, the best way to support them as readers is to expect them to read independently from now on. “If my child can read the book on their own, won’t I be holding them back if I read it aloud for them?”
Here’s my short answer: DON’T STOP READING ALOUD TO YOUR CHILD. There you have it.
And now for the long answer:
Even though your child can read independently now, there are still so many benefits of being read to. Of course, now that they are able to read independently, they should be given plenty of time to do so, so don’t go reading ALL their books out loud for them.
Try to keep read-alouds a part of your routine for as long as possible. Read-alouds are a special bonding time for families, and in addition to the emotional benefit of cuddling up together to read a good book, your child also becomes a stronger reader by listening to you.
So what are the benefits of reading aloud to my child who can now read independently? I’m glad you asked.
1) They learn how to read fluently. Fluency is the ability to read the words on a page smoothly and with the proper intonation and rhythm. Even children who read independently benefit from listening to more skilled readers. Kids imitate what they see and hear, so if they hear you reading smoothly, they pick up on the way your voice flows, and they will try to do the same when they read aloud.
2) They learn new vocabulary. When you read aloud, you are likely to read words that are new to them. If you make a habit of stopping and talking about tricky words as you read, they will know that they can stop you and ask what a word means if they don’t know it. When they read independently, they may not know how to pronounce these new words and might either misread them or skip over them if they’re too hard.
3) They learn to monitor their comprehension. When kids (and adults, who am I kidding?) read to themselves, they are likely to think that they understand much more of the text than they really do. It isn’t until they are asked to explain something in the text that they realize maybe they missed something important. This is why having a discussion about your book is so important. Any holes in their comprehension will be exposed if you ask the right questions and then you can go back and reread if need be. If this becomes a regular process, they will begin to ask themselves questions while they read independently, which ideally then leads them to being able to monitor their own comprehension and make adjustments to their reading if there are any issues.
4) They learn moral lessons, values, and empathy. As your child gets older and more capable of reading on their own, the books you choose to read aloud to them will probably change as well. Look for books that expose your child to themes, characters, settings, and events that they might not regularly encounter to expand their understanding of the diversity of people in the world. Try reading a book that features realistic characters of a different ethnicity or socioeconomic class for example, and dive into discussions about how their experiences are similar and different. These conversations don’t always just happen naturally, so sometimes it is helpful to have a book to get things going for you.
Most avid adult readers will tell you that their love of reading came from positive experiences with books as a child. I for one can say that the nights I fell asleep listening to my mom read some of the classic chapter book series like “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Anne of Green Gables” had a profound impact on my relationship with reading. When I became a teacher, I made sure to read great chapter books aloud to my class because I wanted them to feel the same comfort and wonder that I felt many years ago. You don’t have to spend a ton of time reading aloud (just 10 minutes a day is a good start) but trust me, if you make this time with your child a priority, they will grow up to thank you for it!
Need help choosing a chapter book or series for your child? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a recommendation!