“Next to being hugged, reading aloud is probably the longest-lasting experience of childhood.”
Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook
My maternal grandfather read faithfully to us when we were young. He owned the complete set of Beatrix Potter tales in old green-cloth hardbacks. At bedtime, I was given the privilege of choosing which one we would read. I can still remember the joy of running to the miniature bookshelf in the upstairs hallway which housed the treasures and the closeness I felt leaning against my grandfather as he read to us.
Years ago when my children became independent readers, I was inspired by the words of author Gladys Hunt to continue reading aloud: “What most parents do,… is stop sharing books as soon as a child can read alone. That makes reading a solitary happening, with no chance to talk about a book or discuss what it is saying. ” (Honey for a Teen’s Heart, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002).
Steve Demme, an inspirational homeschool speaker and founder of Math-U-See curriculum read at night to his four sons by positioning a chair in the hallway within earshot of his boys’ rooms and reading from there. I vividly remember when I was called on during a babysitting job to read aloud to five children at bedtime. They lined up on the couch and listened attentively while I read them the next chapter of their Narnia book. They knew where their mother had left off and they didn’t want to miss a night
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis may be a prime example of a book that is a pleasure to read aloud, and one that appeals to many age levels. I hold nothing against the movie version of this classic tale, but I do want to point out that they edit the original book. C.S.Lewis was a master of the English language.
Good literature is a pleasure to read aloud. It rolls off the tongue and provides a wonderful opportunity for children to hear English used artistically and vividly. It is vitally important to share your favorite childhood stories with your children. By example, you can teach them to read with expression. Let the younger ones participate and experience literature above their own reading level when you read something for the older children.
Another benefit of listening to books is the development of the imagination. Encourage children to use the descriptions of place and plot to make a mental movie of what is happening in the book. Doing the voices of the characters can be fun if there is interesting dialogue. Also, the family member who is the usual narrator can take a break when other family members take a turn reading aloud.
During a recent school break, I pulled our family together with Dad as the reader, a practice we had neglected. Our teen daughters participated, with some foot-dragging. It was well worth it when my 14-year old said to her father: “Daddy, I love the sound of your reading voice.” Trips, vacations, and sick days are all wonderful times to put in extra reading moments.
Hunt, Gladys M.. Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
Hunt, Gladys M., and Barbara Hampton. Honey for a Teen’s Heart: Using Books to Communicate with Teens. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
Trelease, Jim. The Read-aloud Handbook. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1982.