As a Head of School, I am often asked how parents can help their child succeed in school and become a lifelong learner. My answer is always the same—read to your child. Read to them not just when they are young, but throughout their entire childhood and beyond.
The benefits of reading out loud are manifold:
- a child’s vocabulary increases as he or she hears the sounds of words
- a child’s understanding of the structure of language develops when he or she hears the words
- an appreciation of the power of stories is acquired
- a child learns to become patient when listening to a story, especially as characters develop and the plot twists and turns
- and perhaps most importantly, reading to a child creates a profound bond between an adult and a young person
For all of these reasons, and many more, reading to a child can be a transformative and life-changing experience.
So, given these many excellent reasons for the benefits of reading aloud to a child, why do we often neglect to do this? Like many things in life, this is easier said than done, especially in our technologically driven world where screen time eats up so much of our time. Frankly, we often get side-tracked or distracted by our busy lives and what is on our screens. Sadly, we miss the opportunity to be in the moment with our loved ones and to share books with our children.
What’s more, reading a book to a child takes time and patience and, without fail, there always seems to be something more important to take care of at that moment. What a pity. I would argue that our world would be a better place if we fostered a culture of reading aloud.
So, as parents, let’s strive to do the following:
- schedule time 4-5 times a week to read to your child
- choose a book that will be captivating and memorable
- pause every so often to talk about what you have read in order to be sure your child is comprehending the story
- and take a moment to explain the meaning of new vocabulary words
Finally, as your child becomes more proficient as a reader, have him or her read out loud to you. Trading off is fun. Before long you will make this a part of your daily routine, you will finish many books, and you will grow closer to your child. All the meanwhile, your child will develop a passion for books. Give it a try.
Warner T. James, Jr.
Head of School at Trinity School of Frederick.