It’s a pretty accepted fact that it’s a good thing to read aloud to your little ones. Beginning at birth- or sometimes before- parents read to little ones, talking to Mommy’s tummy, gathering babies and then squirmy toddlers in their arms to look at books that they’ve read so many times they can almost recite them from memory. But something happens when children reach the age where they are reading independently. At that point, parents seem to think that reading aloud is no longer important or necessary.
Sometimes this idea comes from good intentions. Parents want to encourage kids to read for themselves, instead of always just listening to books. Sometimes parents stop reading aloud to older kids because they’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of younger ones, and it’s really hard to read an age appropriate book to your ten year old when the two year old is running around the room brandishing scissors. (Trust me. I know.) But, no matter why you might consider abandoning reading aloud to your older children, there are some really important reasons to keep on.
Reading aloud is a bonding time.
Even though your twelve year old doesn’t crawl up in your lap to listen to your current read aloud, reading time is still a bonding time. When you’re taking the time to read together, you’re sending the message that you enjoy spending time with your older child. Even though he’s now independent and off doing his own thing most of the day, reading aloud brings you together for a set, regular time together.
Up until last year, I read aloud to my four children at lunch time. They were 5th, 6th, 9th, and 11th graders. The only reason I’ve stopped this year is because my high schoolers are on different schedules with work and school. I still read aloud to my, now, 6th and 7th grader. Why? It’s not about the books, really. It’s about the time we have to spend together. It’s about the fact that, for that one half hour or hour long block, we’re spending time together. And what better way to do it than over an awesomely good book?
You can introduce kids to books they might not pick up for themselves.
Have you looked at the books in the young adult section of the library? You probably don’t want to. The subject matter of many is not appropriate for this age group, or indeed for any group. And chapter books in the children’s section aren’t always much better. Too often books either have this inappropriate content or they’re “twaddle,” light, fluffy books about television characters and middle school drama. I’m not going to pretend that we never have any of these “twaddle” books at our house, but I don’t want that to be the steady diet of literature that my kids are reading. I want to introduce them to good books, books with meaning, books that are well-written.
Reading books aloud with my older kids does this. I can pick out books that I want them to hear, books that I want to discuss, books that I want them to relate to. Sometimes this even leads them to pick out good books for themselves. There have been times that I read the first in a series of good books, a book that the kids wouldn’t have picked up for themselves, only for them to discover that they enjoyed the book and wanted to read more in the series.
Currently I’m reading Anne of Green Gables to my 6th and 7th grader. The book was a little off-putting for them to read independently because it’s thick and meaty, and it has small words (at least our copy does). But the girls are falling in love with Anne. Reading the book aloud to them has introduced them to a new friend, a friend they night have missed if I hadn’t read the book aloud.
The stories in good books provide opportunity for meaningful discussions.
Good literature brings up themes that are meaningful. The characters encounter situations that require them to make important decisions. They grow through the events that take place. Often their thoughts and beliefs are shaped or changed. Good books can shape our thoughts and influence our worldview. Reading good literature aloud to our older kids gives us the opportunity to experience these things with our kids.
There have been many times when I’ve been reading to my older kids and we’ve read about an event or a character’s reaction and had an awesome opportunity for discussion. Topics have come up that I might not have thought to introduce. And when this happens during a read aloud, we can pause and talk. Sometimes the talking eclipses the reading, but that’s okay. Approaching important, life-changing topics through the eyes of a character or through the story in a great book is a non-threatening way of introducing those important topics for discussion.
Don’t stop reading aloud to your older kids. Those precious read aloud opportunities will become fewer and fewer over the years. But don’t let them get away too soon. Reading great books aloud with older kids has so much value. Don’t miss it.