Picture this -- you’re reading with a baby or a toddler on your lap, and he is grabbing for the beloved book, listening curiously to your voice, intently watching your finger point to pictures, or colors, or words, settling in contentedly as you read, enjoying a cuddle, and building a lifetime love of reading and books. So many of us have done this, and know why it’s invaluable.
Now imagine this -- you’re accomodating a gangly, elbow-y seven year old on your lap, and she’s reading quietly, pausing to chuckle and share a favorite passage with you, inviting you to read a page aloud, or asking you a question about a word or an idea. Again, so many of us have savored experiences like this, and wonder when we will no longer read aloud with our littles.
But now fathom this -- you receive a voice message or a phone call from your college kid, or your adult kid, or a student you’ve known and loved, recommending a book, or an author, or a passage -- and he reads breathlessly aloud to you. Why did that happen? How did he know that you’d treasure this moment -- a payback, if you will, for sharing your love of reading, and reading aloud, all of those years with him?
While many of us know and can cite the research about reading aloud to younger children, we may not realize the value of reading aloud to older children.
I was recently musing about this, and voila, (or maybe our Alexa was listening in?), this article appeared in my new feed: Why reading aloud to older children is valuable. In this article, Jim Trelease, a Boston based journalist, known as The King of Read Aloud, extols the benefits of reading aloud, even for older children, and asserts that the benefits are both academic and emotional. Trelease says, ““The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade... You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear.” I pondered this for awhile, thinking about gifted kids. For gifted kids, their reading level may be extremely high, but the concepts might be dense, the vocabulary might be new, or the issues might be perplexing, confusing, or fraught with anxiety or emotion. Being read to, out loud, with time to discuss and process, may ameliorate these concerns.
In schools, reading aloud, even to older students, may be happening more often than we think. Research shows that 58 percent of teachers read aloud to their students - and nearly 100 percent of reading and special education teachers read aloud to their students. Research indicates that “motivation, interest, and engagement are often enhanced when teachers read aloud to middle school students and beyond.” As an educational coach, I have watched middle and high school teachers read to their students, and have witnessed the rapt attention, nodding heads, and knowing smiles when this happens. Being read to frees students from decoding, and from making embarrassing mistakes, and exposes them to the beauty of sometimes difficult text shared in the voice of a master reader.
Reading with our older children at home conceivably has the same effects, and is even more intimately powerful because of our special parent-child connections. Together we can share the enjoyment, and build a treasure trove of favorite words, works, phrases, topics, genres, and authors -- strengthening our bonds with our children as they mature.
My (informal) research has revealed that even adults enjoy being read to -- at least judging from the sales of audio books, or the popularity of “chapter-a-day” programs on public radio.
So finally, when thinking about reading aloud, picture this -- a number of years ago, while on vacation, I broke my glasses and was unable to read. That evening my dear husband read to me, and I discovered that being read aloud to is a gift that keeps on giving, regardless of age. Even grandmothers adore it.
I hope that this article encourages you to keep reading aloud to your loved ones, and to your students, if you are a teacher. Who knows what memories you will make together?
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas as we grow in understanding.
Jacquelyn Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.