Why reading aloud to children is key to literacy

Guest Blogger
Mar 05, 2013
Guest blogger Souzanne Wright, Vice President, Program Development Strategy for Scholastic Book Clubs and a contributor to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, shares insight about the importance of reading aloud and a great new program – Knowledge Quest! read aloud collections. Have you ever seen a child read through a text fluently, and then when you ask him or her what the text meant, you receive a disconcerting “I don’t know”? Literacy is twofold. On one side of the equation, children must learn to decode words on the page, matching sounds with letters and moving from small, simple words to larger, more complex words. The second side of literacy involves comprehension of the words, and that requires background knowledge and vocabulary about a topic or theme, such as science, history, or art. It is important to keep in mind that a child’s ability to understand through reading independently lags behind his or her ability to understand through listening, from infancy through preteen years. By reading aloud to them, they are able to gain more knowledge and vocabulary, because they do not expend cognitive energy to decode words on a page. Also, children are able to listen to and understand richer texts that are ahead of their reading level. This means children need us—parents, teachers, librarians, older siblings—to collectively help them with the other side of literacy by reading aloud to them daily. What to read to children is also important. Reading nonfiction and fiction on a single subject matter provides repeated exposure to topic-specific words, which in turn speeds vocabulary growth and builds essential background knowledge about a subject. This approach empowers children to master the vocabulary and content required for comprehending what they read. The haphazard approach of picking random texts on many topics provides little or no opportunity for children to deeply grasp the topic at hand. Now more than ever, parents and teachers are in need of programs that address the systematic building of knowledge through reading aloud, particularly since the new Common Core State Standards were initiated throughout the country. Scholastic is making serious efforts to supply those involved in children’s literacy with the best tools to meet these needs. This week we introduced Knowledge Quest!™Read-Aloud Collections,a PreK through grade three, read-aloud program, created by leading literacy experts at Scholastic Book Clubs. This program includes themed book bundles and a guidebook, which contains a bank of activities embedded with the Common Core State Standards. The collections cover many topics, such as science, social studies, literature, art, music, and even social themes. This comprehensive, yet fun, turnkey program provides teachers and parents a way to engage with children and help them develop the vocabulary and comprehension skills required by Common Core—all by reading aloud. At Scholastic, we truly believe reading aloud to children while also encouraging them in independent reading is one of the best things we can do for children’s literacy. By making a daily commitment to read aloud to children for at least 20 minutes and encouraging them to read independently for another 20 minutes will go a long way. This small undertaking—that should start as young as the toddler age—will have a huge impact on a child’s ability to succeed in school, and it will also place them on the path to college and career readiness.