Science has confirmed what you already knew—reading aloud to children has clear cognitive benefits. Several studies continue to prove just that. One of which was a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study, co-authored by 5 scientists, demonstrates that when a child is being read to, the part of his/her brain that processes visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning, improves significantly. Another study asserts that reading aloud helps children a) Learn to recognise letters, b) Understand that print represents the spoken word, and c) Learn how to hold a book and turn the page.
Jim Trelease in his book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, asserts that kindergarten children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness than did children who were read to less often. What this means is, having a conversation with your child in the language you wanted him/her to speak alone isn’t enough. The conversation is nevertheless important but when it comes to building a rich vocabulary, nothing does it like words that come from a print. A good children’s book is three times richer in vocabulary than conversation.
Commission On Reading
In 1983, the U.S. Department of Education created its first Commission on Reading to explore the reading decline. The report, known as Becoming A Nation of Readers, was published two years later in 1985. The following are some of its important findings:
a) The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. This is especially so during the preschool years. The benefits are greatest when the child is an active participant, engaging in discussions about stories, learning to identify letters and words, and talking about the meanings of words.
b) Parents play roles of inestimable importance in laying the foundation for learning to read. Parents should informally teach preschool children about reading and writing by reading aloud to them, discussing stories and events, encouraging them to learn letters and words and teaching them about the world around them. These practices help prepare children for success in reading.
c) Parents have an obligation to support their children’s continued growth as readers. In addition to laying a foundation, parents need to facilitate the growth of their children’s reading by taking them to libraries, encouraging reading as a free time activity, and supporting homework.
d) Kindergarten programs should emphasize oral language and writing as well as the beginning steps in reading. Reading builds on oral language facility, concepts about the functions of printed language and a desire to communicate through writing, as well as specific knowledge about letters and words.
Parents who take time to read aloud to their children not only promote emergent literacy and language development but also strengthen parent-child relationships. Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, asserts that;
We read aloud to children for the same reasons we talk with them: to reassure; entertain; bond; inform; arouse curiosity; and inspire. But reading aloud goes further than conversation when it: a) Conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure, b) Creates background knowledge, c) Builds “book” vocabulary, and d) Provides a reading role model.
Hutton, J. S., Horowitz-Kraus, T., Mendelsohn, A. L., DeWitt, T., & Holland, S. K. (2015, September 1). Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories.
Bus, A. G., IJzendoorn, M. H. van, & Pellegrini, A. D. (n.d.). Joint Book Reading Makes for Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-Analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of Literacy – Adriana G. Bus, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Anthony D. Pellegrini, 1995.
Trelease, J. (2019). Jim Trelease’s read-aloud handbook. New York: Penguin.
Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (2018). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children.
Anderson, R., Hiebert, E., Scott, J., Wilkinson, I., Becker, W., & Becker, W. (1988). BECOMING A NATION OF READERS: THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON READING. Education and Treatment of Children,11(4), 389-396. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42899086.