Reading aloud to students is a time-honored tradition, but many teachers are phasing it out in favor of cramming in more tutelage time. Yet reading aloud can improve students’ academic performance and psychological health, with benefits that last even after the school year is over.
See why reading aloud to your students is still an important part of your classroom routine.
Better Reading Comprehension
Practice doesn’t always make perfect. It’s true that reading on your own is necessary for proficiency, but reading to children aloud can help improve their progress in solo reading by leaps and bounds. When children only read on their own and aren’t read to, they often struggle with vocabulary they don’t understand or can’t parse correctly.
The challenge of solo reading may hinder a student’s actual understanding of a text if they’re so focused on trying to understand the technical aspects: they may only pick up literal facts from the story and miss the bigger picture in terms of themes, ideas, or plot. Reading to children can help them relax and enjoy the story instead of struggling with word comprehension.
Talking to children is important for building grammar and vocabulary, but most parents aren’t likely to use their brainiest words in conversation with their child. As parents and teachers, we often simplify our dialogue while talking to children so that they can understand us better. Even adults who don’t make this effort just don’t usually use their best SAT words in casual chat. The average person uses only 10,000 different words throughout the day!
Children’s authors often go out of their way to sprinkle their stories with words that kids need to know, but rarely hear in everyday life. Reading to children as young as one year old is an effective way to build vocabulary and syntax, especially before they’re able to read on their own. However, even children who are older and proficient in reading can benefit from an adult reading aloud to them; it helps them learn how to pronounce and use new words in context.
You can use reading aloud in the classroom as a way to tie other subjects into your literature. Historical fiction about a relevant subject, science fiction about a principle you’re studying, or even just a piece of literary fiction that deals with the concepts you’re talking about in class can help pique students’ interest and give them a story to relate to as they’re learning about topics in the classroom.
This can make difficult or intense subjects more accessible to your students. It also makes it easier for students to ask good questions using their newfound vocabulary and understanding of a subject, as well as to tackle texts that may be intimidating or seem beyond their ability when reading.
Health and Literacy
The American Academy of Pediatrics shows us that literacy is inextricably related to health. In 2003, 14% of adults in the United States did not have basic literacy skills, and 22% had only basic literacy skills. That’s 90 million American adults who not only can’t read, but aren’t able to navigate our country’s often complicated health care system. Having no or only basic literacy skills can lead to adults who do not fully understand disease prevention tactics, such as hand-washing or proper food hygiene or sanitation.
Adults with this issue may also not be able to seek preventative services because of their lowered health literacy, and may not be able to identify symptoms of a disease correctly or take medication as needed. This is related to increased incidents of hospitalization, inability to manage chronic disease, and poorer overall status of health that leads to a higher mortality rate among illiterate adults. Reading to your child as often as possible can make a difference in their very health.
Psychological and Social Benefits
Reading to children isn’t just good for their vocabulary. It’s also good for their psychological development. It gives students a sense of acceptance, comfort, and being cared for, even if they’re already in middle school, high school, or college. The good feeling from being read to doesn’t go away as you grow! That psychological link can also help your young readers develop positive feelings towards books as they grow older.
Many adults don’t read for fun as they age out of formal education, often because there’s no obvious reward or pleasure attached to it. Reading out loud helps associate those warm and fuzzy feelings of being cared for with the activity of reading, so adults will continue to enjoy literacy long after their formal education is over. Studies also show that kids and adults who read for fun show evidence of improved empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence in general.
Tips For Reading Out Loud
Teachers can use educational strategies to make the most out of your reading time with the students. Try these educational strategies:
Stop the story to consult the students.
Pausing in the right place to ask the students what they think, especially if it’s near a cliffhanger or twist, can introduce your students to the idea of interacting with a text instead of passively absorbing it. Let your students get involved with the story by thinking critically about the narrative.
Map the story and characters.
Students can use a story map to keep track of the characters, setting, and main events in the story. Review your story maps before you start reading the next part of your story, and your students will have a good handle on story elements.
Choose engaging books and read engagingly.
Older students like being read to as well, but choosing a book that’s too simple or too complex for your class means that the story will still go over their heads. Practice reading out loud before you strut your stuff in class. Reading with inflection, confidence, and even doing voices can help keep your students engaged and bring the story to life.