The benefits of reading to children are widespread and well-known. Many parents spend hours reading to little ones before bedtime and naps. Paging through board books can fill hours on a lazy afternoon.
But as a child learns to read on his or her own, and develops their own reading preferences, many families stop reading together. Sure, the children might still read and the parents may read (if the busyness of raising a family and tending to a household allows), but older children and their parents rarely read the same book together.
Reading together as a family as the child becomes capable of reading - even reading chapter books – on his or her own is extremely beneficial.
First, it can provide critical bonding time as a family in our increasingly busy lives. So many families are overscheduled, with parents and children trying to multitask. A parent might send a child to do her homework while the parent cooks dinner. Or a child might clean his room while the parent responds to some work emails. Reading together can be a way to bring the family together in a shared activity, even if it is only for a ten minutes before bedtime.
Second, it provides a way for all children to be included in the same activity, regardless of reading ability. Younger children can listen to the story and turn the pages while older children and parents read. The same holds true for children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. By reading together, the parent can take on as much of the reading as necessary to prevent the child from becoming frustrated and overtaxed so that reading can continue to be fun.
Third, reading aloud to older children has academic and emotional benefits. According to Jim Trelease, a Boston-based journalist who wrote The Read-Aloud Handbook, “a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade.” Reading together as a family – especially when the parent reads to older children – can show children the kinds of books waiting for them as their reading ability improves.
And finally, reading together as a family can provide a starting point for conversations about challenging topics. Trelease says the power of shared words and stories can help children ask questions and make sense of difficult concepts more comfortably because they can frame their questions in the context of the characters, instead of themselves.
The way a family reads together can vary. Some children always prefer to listen to their parents read to them, whether they are five or fifteen. Other families will alternate readers among parents and children. Other times, the children will read to the parents. Some families choose to read books that have been made into movies since watching the movie together after reading the book is a second source of enjoyment.
Regardless of how your family reads together, and whether you read together for ten minutes or an hour, the benefits abound. To get you started, here is a list of a few of my favorite books to read with my family:
by Roald Dahl
This classic is filled with larger-than-life characters and dream world of candy. Children will enjoy the fantastical candy world, and parents will appreciate the lessons about kindness, patience and generosity that the book provides.
by J.K. Rowling
Many families delight in reading these books together for the first time.
by JRR Tolkein
Children will love to hear the adventurous tales of Bilbo Baggins as it encounters elves, dwarves, and goblins; parents will love to re-read this classic from their youth. The books also offer several opportunities for discussion about friendship, sacrifice, and courage.
by CS Lewis
These stories are best read with older children due to the opportunity for complex conversation.
by Beverly Cleary
Parents will delight in reliving these books from their childhood, and Ramona is a loveable – if not mischievous – hero for children.
by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Children will love reading about the adventures of these four orphan siblings, and books will open the door to several topics of conversation.
Wonderful stories of friendship. Beginning readers especially enjoy these books.
Any book that is a favorite of you and your child. Right now we are reading The Little Prince.
Just remember: there is no right or wrong way to read together as a family. The important thing is to ENJOY IT! What books are you and your children reading right now? Please do pop over to my Facebook page to let me know.