A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Voices from Classroom: Never stop reading aloud — every child (including older ones) loves being read to

By Jessica McMahan
Taylor Mill Elementary School

It seems natural that the older a child becomes, the less exciting school becomes for them.

As an elementary school teacher and mother of a 9-year-old, I feel like I have witnessed this to some degree. The start of kindergarten is a huge milestone full of pictures, balloons, documented doctor visits, shopping, celebrations, and reading special stories to prepare them for the big day. First grade, it continues. Your baby is now in school all day and you can hardly believe it. You can’t wait to hear about the school day, review phonics homework, and read-aloud their favorite bedtime story by their favorite author, while cuddling their cherished plush toy.

These exciting milestones, celebrations, and rituals seem to weaken a little bit with each passing school year. Your evenings might begin to fill up with extra-curricular activities, dinner (hopefully!), and instead of a bedtime story, it might be a team effort to find the missing homework assignment.

The bedtime story shifts to independent reading and before you know it, they’re “too old for read alouds.”

Maybe your house is different, but I can’t help but notice how the “read aloud” stage seems to end at a certain age, and I feel like this is true for both parents at home and teachers in the classroom.

I love asking my son open-ended questions about his day at school. A couple of weeks ago, I asked him to tell me something that made him smile that day. His face lit up as he told me about Ms. Arias reading a picture book aloud to his fourth grade class.

“It wasn’t a chapter book. It was, like, a picture book — and it was awesome.”

Not only did he love the actual book, but I swear, something about a teacher holding a picture book in front of a group of kiddos sitting on a rug, licking their finger to turn the pages, pausing periodically and intentionally. . .it is magical and kids love it. Even 9-year-olds. And this isn’t just true for teachers and classrooms. Parents have the opportunity to recreate this magic, as well. It doesn’t even need to be a picture book—chapter books can be just as exciting when read aloud.

According to a recent Scholastic study, only 17% of parents of children ages 9-11 read aloud to their children. However, 83% of children ages 6-17 report that being read to is something they either love or like a lot.

Parents, and teachers, are always on the hunt for something their child enjoys that is also beneficial for them. Good news – found something! If that statistic isn’t convincing enough, keep in mind that reading aloud to your child helps build their reading comprehension and models fluent reading. It helps them understand how to be caring and empathetic towards others. It builds knowledge of vocabulary beyond current grade level. It allows students to enjoy a book that they might not have chosen to read before. The benefits of reading aloud to children goes on and on.

Reading aloud to your child each night (or to your students each day) is as beneficial for their brain and well-being as fueling their bodies up with a plate full of green veggies. Plus, this is something they will actually love and enjoy. Win, win!

Families and teachers, don’t let the read-alouds in your classroom, in your home, fade away. Don’t assume that because your child can read on his own now that he doesn’t want to hear you read to him. Assume the opposite. Carve out 10-15 minutes each day, night, week, whatever you can spare. Choose a book that will make your child laugh, make your child wonder, make your child smile.

Choose a book that will make your child go to school the next day and say, “Ms. ___, you have to read ____! My ___ read it to me last night and it was awesome!”

I like to visit the library and have my kiddos pick out books they think they’ll enjoy. But if you’re feeling stumped, www.readbrightly.com has a nice list of good books to read aloud to your “big kid.” (http://www.readbrightly.com/bedtime-books-for-big-kids/) Twitter and Google also have some great suggestions just by simply typing in “Great Read Alouds for Kids.”
February 1 was World Read Aloud Day. Make February your month to start a new habit of reading aloud to your child (or class) more than you did in 2017.

(Statistics from Kids and Family Reading Report, Scholastic, Inc.)

Jessica McMahan, M.A.Ed. Literacy Specialist, Read to Achieve Teacher at Taylor Mill Elementary. In her free time she loves spending time with her husband and two children, Noah and Reese, and loves traveling to new places. 

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