I’ve read aloud with my eldest daughter since she was a tiny newborn. She’s now almost eleven, and a voracious, independent reader. However, we still make time to read aloud together regularly. Why? Well, for me, it offers an easy way to maintain a genuine connection with my busy kid. That time hanging out together is precious for maintaining trust and open communication.
Unfortunately, the number of parents who say it's important to read aloud with their child drops dramatically as the child reaches the tween years, according to the 7th edition of the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. When asked why, parents most commonly cite the fact that children "can read on their own." But older kids like my daughter treasure read-aloud time with their parents, too. Eighty-five percent of children ages 6-14 who have been read aloud to said they loved it.
There’s no better time to refresh your bookshelf with read-alouds, because World Read Aloud Day is February 5! This annual advocacy day is presented by global literacy nonprofit LitWorld and sponsored by Scholastic, and unites people around the world by highlighting the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. To take part, grab a book with your child and read aloud — and learn more about World Read Aloud Day here.
Naturally, read-aloud time with my 11-year-old looks very different now compared to when she was a wriggly toddler. For one, our reading material is a lot more substantial (it must be something we both enjoy). Also, I don’t always have to do all of the actual reading — we often take turns reading pages aloud which is a valuable way for me to hear how she’s doing with her reading. Plus, there are (at least) three other, key benefits to reading aloud with your older child:
1. They'll Build Their Vocabulary
A well-developed vocabulary is linked to better school performance. As a child listens and understands at a higher level than he's able to read independently (right up to high school age), reading aloud provides children with the chance to listen and engage with texts beyond their own reading level — and this is wonderfully constructive for vocabulary development.
2. It Gives You Insight Into Their Challenges
Books can invite conversation with kids around relevant social issues and challenges they might be facing. Choosing a book to read together that addresses a tricky topic — such as friendship issues, prejudice, bullying, or homelessness — offers an unmatched opportunity to talk together. You can better understand what your child thinks or has experienced around a given issue, as well as share your beliefs and personal stories on a sensitive subject.
3. They'll Associate Rest & Relaxation With Reading
Maintaining a habit of reading aloud together with your independent reader provides the continued chance for closeness with you. Plus, escaping into a great book can be a stress-reliever, and continuing this tradition ahead of those emotionally tricky pre-teen and teen years will (hopefully) help him see books as a place for respite.
Of course, choosing the right book is an essential part of a successful read-aloud. For my daughter and me, it has to be a book we're both interested in, and yes, there have been books we’ve started and discarded as they failed to capture our attention. That being said, here are five titles from a range of genres that we think you might enjoy with your own kids.
1. J. K. Rowling’s bestselling Harry Potter series is so good that the kids simply can’t have it all to themselves! For those parents who read the books as youngsters, it’s a fantastic series to rediscover as a read-aloud with your elementary aged child. Who doesn’t love hanging out with Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry as they learn lessons in friendship, determination, and courage?
2. If your child loves adventure, fantasy, or mythology, then the thrilling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan makes an excellent read-aloud to enjoy together. Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson discovers that he is a demi-god — half human, half Greek god — and that his father is the sea-god, Poseidon. In the first book of the series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy teams up with Annabeth, daughter of Athena and a satyr named Grover, on an adventure to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt — the first of many adventures for Percy and his friends.
3. In The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, Evan’s younger sister, Jessie, is skipping a grade and will be in his fourth grade class this year, and Evan’s not happy about it. Jessie is smart but struggles to make friends while Evan is not-so-great at school work but has friends… or at least he did! Evan’s frustration leads to all-out war — of the lemonade stands — in a wonderful story of sibling relationships, compromise, teamwork, and forgiveness.
4. George by Alex Gino is the poignant and sensitive story of George, who was born a boy but knows in her heart that she's a girl, and her struggles with wanting to be herself while fearing the reaction of her family, friends, and classmates. It's a wonderful springboard for discussing empathy, friendship, bullying, gender roles, and learning to stand up for who you are.
5. In Refugee, Alan Gratz expertly weaves together the stories of three refugee children of different times and places — Josef escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Isabel leaving Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud fleeing Syria's civil war in 2015. The children face devastating dangers and horrifying obstacles in their search for refuge, with connections and similarities that surpass the different conflicts and circumstances their families face. It's a valuable read for prompting discussion around a weighty social issue.