Shh… Don’t tell anyone. For months, I betrayed my hero, Jim Trelease, the author of the much acclaimed Read Aloud Handbook. For a long time, I have said that I want to be Jim Trelease when I grow up. I mean, really, is there a better job in the world than talking and writing about the power of reading aloud to children?
Trelease has written often about the importance of reading aloud to children long after they become independent readers.
Trelease and other experts site the following as some of the reasons to read aloud to older children:
The power of reading aloud to build vocabulary:
After all, reading and listening comprehension do not converge until the eighth grade. Therefore, adults can read books aloud to children that children can not easily read to themselves opening up huge literary worlds.
The power of reading aloud to older children in forming lasting bonds with adults:
During this time of connection, an older child can understand that their parents remain a safe and important place to go for comfort.
The power of reading aloud to older children to open up opportunities for discussions:
With books as the prop, parents can discuss puberty, bullying and peer pressure without embarrassment.
So it’s pretty clear where I’m going with this.
Here comes the big confession. Until a few weeks ago, I had not read aloud to Caroline in months.
She was resistant and I was lazy. She was often reading more than one book a day and wanted to use all her reading time to do so. She didn’t want me to read. She wanted to read. I tried for a bit but then I stopped. After all, I told myself, she was reading. But always in the back of my mind, I felt a bit of guilt and sadness. I love reading aloud to the girls and I knew all the benefits.
When I saw a great TED talk by Jeanne Birdsall, author of the Penderwicks, I had an idea. I called the girls to the couch and we watched the video together. They were enthralled and when it ended I suggested we could read the book aloud together. Katherine said yes and Caroline, much to my dismay, said no.
I decided to forge forward and read to Katherine. Over the following days, Katherine made many references to Arundel Hall and Batty and Hound. Caroline began to get curious. A few nights later, as I began reading to Katherine, Caroline peeked around the corner and asked if she could join us.
She did and the rest is history.
I will forever love the Penderwicks. First, because it is a beautiful ‘old fashioned feeling’ yet contemporary story.
But even more so, I will love the Penderwicks because it has brought back my favorite time. The family read aloud.