Did you know that the biggest predictor of scholastic success or failure for children is the vocabulary they have before they even get inside the classroom?
The Read-Aloud Handbook says this:
“Yes, the child goes to school to learn new words, but the words he already knows determine how much of what the teacher says will be understood. And since most instruction for the first four years of school is oral, the child who has the largest vocabulary will understand the most, while the child with the smallest vocabulary will grasp the least.”
So how do we make sure our kids have the boost they need before the enter the hallowed halls of Kindergarten?
We read out loud to them, every single day.
From newborn to teenaged, our kids need to hear us read book after book after book—even just 15 minutes a day!—to have the greatest academic benefits possible.
But the advantages don’t start or end with school.
Want children who harbor a lifelong love for learning and reading? Read out loud to them.
“Parents play roles of inestimable importance in laying the foundation for learning to read.” -Becoming a Nation of Readers
The better a child understands language, the more easily they’ll learn to read. The more they can read, the more they can learn. And learning tends to have a snowball effect—the more you know, the more you wantto know. Which will mean more reading. And around and around it goes.
Want a closer relationship to your kids? Read out loud to them.
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“We’re blown away that kids time and again said the most special time they recall spending with a parent is reading together.” -Liza Baker, Executive Editorial Director at Scholastic
Yeah, it’s not going to be the millions of hours they spend in front of screens. It’s going to be the quiet moments, snuggled up before naptime or sprawled out on the playroom floor, reading the same books over and over that mean the world to them.
Want better listeners, more willing to obey? Read out loud to them.
“The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention.” -Perri Klass, M.D.
Those effects—less hyperactivity, less aggression—last for years according to the study. Plus, kids who flex their patience, impulse-control, and quiet-time muscles daily are often more obedient. All that for the small, small price of 15 minutes per day? Sold.
Want kids who practice more empathy? Freaking read out loud to them already!
“It appears that reading fiction can improve the reader's ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is very similar to the visualization that an athlete would use to activate the motor cortex and muscle memory used in sports during a mental rehearsal.” -Psychology Today
That study, done in 2014, revealed that the same things goes for internalizing the emotions, experiences, and relationships of the characters you read about. When we’re in the heads of people living vastly different lives from our own, it helps us see things from their perspective and act accordingly when approached with these differing ideas in real life.
So, make it a habit. Grab a book today. Don’t wait to start until they can turn the pages, and don’t stop after they’re old enough to read it to themselves. Go to the library. Take them to story time. Read while they’re in the tub. Let them pick out the chapter book.
Just read. Read. Read. Read. READ.