The link below is to an article that takes a look at how to read aloud to children.
Words are powerful, and a rich vocabulary can provide young people with significant advantages. Successful vocabulary development is associated with better vocational, academic and health outcomes.
When parents read books aloud to their children from an early age, this offers notable advantages for children’s vocabulary development. This gives them a broader range of possible word choices.
Research also suggests children who don’t have the opportunity for shared reading are comparatively disadvantaged. If we want our children to be able to draw on a rich vocabulary to express themselves clearly, we need to read to them. Developing a child’s vocabulary is a valuable investment in their future.
Benefits of reading aloud
In the very early years, spoken vocabularies have been associated with higher achievement in reading and maths, and better ability to regulate behaviour. Vocabulary is also linked to success in reading comprehension and related word recognition skills.
Much of a child’s vocabulary is acquired through daily conversations. Shared reading aloud can provide a valuable additional source of new words children can use to power their expression. Research suggests the text of picture books offers access to more diverse vocabulary than child-directed conversations.
At some point, most of us have experienced the frustration of searching for an elusive word that is essential to clearly communicate an idea or a need. When children speak or write, they draw on their vocabulary to make word selections that will optimise the clarity and accuracy of their expression.
Beyond vocabulary, reading aloud offers numerous additional benefits for children. Reading aloud may support students to develop sustained attention, strong listening skills, and enhanced cognitive development.
Recent research also suggests children who are read to from an early age may be less likely to experience hyperactivity. Children who are at risk of reading difficulties may particularly benefit from being read to. Children who are learning English as an additional language may experience better reading comprehension when they are read to in English.
Reading aloud with your child is also valuable parent-child time. It can strengthen the parent-child relationship and foster reading engagement, which is essential if we want our children to enjoy the benefits of being a life-long reader.
How can I optimise vocabulary growth for my child?
Vocabulary development can be improved through explicit teaching techniques such as providing definitions for new words. For example, while reading to your child, when you encounter a new word you may pause and ask the child what they think it means.
If they’re unsure, you can then read a little further along so the word is encountered in a context that can give valuable clues about meaning. If the meaning is still unclear, you can provide a definition for your child so you can move on.
A recent study found approaches that involve pointing, providing definitions, and asking some questions as you read together can be good for vocabulary building.
Recent research found nearly identical gains in vocabulary where children were read to either using explicit techniques (such as pointing and giving definitions) or a more engaging storytelling approach. In the storytelling approach, the adult reading to the child added contextual information, which made the child more interested and engaged in the story.
Children will also benefit from hearing the same story a number of times. It’s also a good idea to use some of the new language in subsequent conversation if possible. This can increase exposure and strengthen retention of new words.
What if I don’t have a book?
We may not always have a book at hand. In these cases, you can draw on your creativity and tell a story, which can also benefit vocabulary.
While there is limited research in this area, one study compared telling a child a story or reading them a story with a child reading silently to themselves. The study found all three groups of children learned new words. But telling a story and reading a story to a child offered superior gains in vocabulary.
Beating the barriers
Research suggests that children may be aware of the benefits of listening to books read aloud. This awareness can be a source of regret for the child when reading aloud at home ends, but they still enjoy shared reading. Children may continue to enjoy and benefit from being read to beyond the early years. You should keep reading with your children as long as they let you.
By far, the biggest barrier raised by parents to reading aloud to their children was the formidable barrier of time. If reading aloud becomes a routine part of family life, like dinner and bedtime, this barrier may be overcome as the practice becomes an everyday event.
Due to diverse issues faced in homes and families, not all parents will be able to read their child a book, or tell them a story. This is why it’s still so important for schools to provide opportunities for students to regularly listen to engaging and culturally diverse books.
But reading aloud is not a typical daily classroom practice. We should increase the number of opportunities children have to hear stories both at home and in schools so children can experience the many benefits of a rich and varied vocabulary.
As parents know all too well, children love to re-read their favourite books over and over again.
While this may feel painfully repetitive to adults, there is something in the text that is bringing children back time after time.
Children benefit greatly from re-reading as they learn the rhyming or predictable pattern of the text – rather than spending that time trying to understand what the book’s about.
Research shows that repeated reading of favourite books can boost vocabulary by up to 40%.
But this is only truly beneficial when the text is read aloud.
Research shows that when preschool children are frequently read to, their brain areas supporting comprehension and mental imagery are highly engaged. Studies show that this helps with the development of reading skills, such as word recognition, when they start to learn to read.
By assisting our children to develop these skills, we’re ensuring that they know that text conveys a message, and to read on for more information when they get stuck on a word.
And it’s never too early to start reading aloud to your children. Australian author and literacy studies professor Mem Fox says reading to children from birth can help develop a love for and understanding of books.
Need more convincing? Here are five ways that reading aloud can benefit your child:
1. Improves fluency
Fluency when reading is essential in order to build strong and confident readers. But it can frequently be misinterpreted as relating only to reading speed alone.
Researcher Timothy Rasinski highlights the “bridge” that fluency plays in between word recognition and understanding what the book is about. He highlights the way that reading fluently at a natural reading speed helps to ensure that comprehension is maintained when reading.
When you share a book with your child, they get to see good reading modelled for them. They establish a sense of the speed and prosody that is essential to fluent reading. This then aids in their comprehension of the story.
To help your child hear themselves as a fluent reader, choose a favourite book, and take it in turns reading a sentence, such as in the style of echo reading, where you might read a sentence or a page first then your child repeats the same part.
Hearing themselves as confident and fluent readers allows children to break out of the struggling reader mindset where every book is a challenge.
2. Expands vocabulary knowledge
Research shows that possessing a broad vocabulary is essential to making sure that children have access to a range of different words with different meanings.
It makes sense that the more words that children know when reading independently, the more they’ll enjoy what they’re reading.
While vocabulary lessons are taught in schools, parents can also assist in helping their children learn new words at home by reading favourite books aloud.
Before reading a book for the first time, flick through the pages with your child. Look for any interesting words that your child might not have seen before. Talk about what these words mean and where they may have seen them before.
3. Helps comprehension
Successful reading is all about making sense of what we’re reading.
As adults, if we don’t quite understand something that we’ve just read, the first thing that we tend to do is to go back and reread.
This is a vital skill that we need to encourage in our children to help them become self sufficient readers.
Reading aloud provides the means by which to clearly take about what is happening in the book and to practice this rereading skill.
The conversations about what the book is about can take place before reading with your child in order to predict what might happen. Discussions during and after reading are also usual in clarifying what your children have just read.
4. Involves family members
Fathers and other significant males in a child’s life play a vital role in encouraging their children to be active readers at home.
While mothers do tend to spend more time with their children and often take on reading as a part of this experience, research demonstrates clear benefits when dads, uncles, grandfathers and male friends read with children.
Dads are often seen as the untapped resource when it comes to reading with their children and they frequently provide a different range of experiences, especially when reading aloud.
This might be through using different funny voices and even the content that is read together.
5. Brings the fun back into reading
As any avid reader knows there are few things better in life than curling up with a favourite book and not wanting to put it down.
Sharing this experience with your child is a valuable way to get them on the path to loving books as well.
Consider taking home a new book from the bookstore or library and selling this to your child.
Try talking about the pictures, look at interesting words and predict what might happen before reading together.
When you are reading the book aloud for the first time, use different voices for each character.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on what to read to your child, then try the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards shortlist, or the Dymock’s Top 51 Kids list which is voted for by kids for kids.