I had lunch this week with my dear friend Donna. I love our time together, always walking away from the restaurant more relaxed and wiser than when I entered.
Yesterday, our conversation turned to the story of Donna’s only child learning to read. Her son is now 28 and her description was vivid. She recalled watching her son as he listened for hours to books on tape that his grandmother had given to him as a birthday present. As he turned pages at all the correct spots, she assumed he had memorized the story after listening to it so many times. You can guess where this is going…
One day she and her husband sat on the patio reading the New York Times, their son at their feet listening to his books. After some time had passed, Donna felt her four year old climb on to the foot of the patio chair. Suddenly, she heard him talking with words that sounded an awful lot like newspaper headlines. She stuck her head around the corner of the paper to discover that he was indeed reading the paper.
He had learned to read, just like that, she said. Just like that he was learned to read.
Although she and I both know that it wasn’t just like that. It was after hours upon hours of listening to books. Be it books read by parents, books read by tape or today, books read by apps, hearing stories read aloud is the single most powerful way to help children become readers.
My 5yo daughter learned to read in a similar way – lots of listening and watching!
This is so encouraging for all the story reading I do. But audio books, I hadn’t really thought of them, off to get more children’s audio books …
I’ll get those tapes (and now apps) actually have an edge over parents reading aloud, in the context of the child learning to read. When I read aloud, I don’t always read the words exactly as they are on the page. I vary them, point things out, etc. But with a tape (or now an app) the child sees the words exactly as he or she hears them. And some kids learn to read that way. (Of course I still believe in the parents reading aloud, too – there are lots of benefits to that, benefits that you can’t get any other way).