“Reading aloud to children can awaken their sleeping imaginations,improve their language skills and change their attitude toward books. That’s very important in a nation where so many children can’t read, won’t read or hate to read.”
–Jim Trelease, author, The New Read Aloud Handbook
In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo walked in on Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and found him . . . reading to himself:
When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.
(The Confessions, c. 397-400)
Whether Augustine was impressed or appalled by the bishop’s reading habits remains a matter of scholarly dispute. What’s clear is that earlier in our history silent reading was rare.
But reading aloud in school and at home, often stops, or is greatly cut back, once a child learns to read on his own. It is assumed to be suitable only for very young children.
Why?, wonders author Jim Trelease in his book The Read Aloud Handbook:
“Reading aloud is a commercial for reading. …Think of it this way: McDonald’s doesn’t stop advertising just because the vast majority of Americans know about its restaurants. Each year it spends more money on ads to remind people how good its products taste. Don’t cut your reading advertising budget as children grow older.”
Reading aloud to children helps them develop and improve literacy skills — reading, writing, speaking, and listening, Trelease adds. And since children listen on a higher level than they read, listening to other readers stimulates growth and understanding of vocabulary and language patterns.
Instructionally, reading aloud books, poems, articles, and short stories gives teachers and parents endless opportunities to highlight great writing and model reading strategies.
Reading aloud removes roadblocks to comprehension like unfamiliar vocabulary and contextualizes words the readers do not know. Listening to a fluent reader gives the listener a reading role model for their own oral reading skills.
Reading aloud builds community. Shared experiences create memories that connect us to each other. Reading aloud offers unifying moments. While reading together, we laugh and cry together, comrades on the same journey.
We are never too young or too old to be read to. What book are you reading out loud?