Reading aloud to your children is an important part of their literacy growth and it shouldn’t stop when they learn to read. Reading to our children has always been an important part of my family’s schedule which we began before our first child was even born. My husband used to read to our daughter in utero. I think before she was even born, he could reciteGreen Bear(by Alan Rogers) without even looking at the words.
I myself love reading so I enjoy passing this passion on to my children. I was an early reader who read at a 3rd / 4th grade level in kindergarten but that didn’t stop me from loving to hear stories read. I still have the fondest memories of my teacher reading Ronald Dahl’sJames and the Giant Peachwhen I was in third grade. Now we can watch it in film, but I had that peach envisioned in my brain long before it ever hit the big screen. Reading with your children helps them build their literary skills but it also grows their imagination and builds a bond of intimacy between you. It is wonderful to curl up with a good book and even better when you do it with someone you love.
The first books you read with your children do not have to be Ivanhoeor Wuthering Heights. The point is not to create a genius species but to open their eyes to the joys of reading. The first books are just the ignition material to drive a lifelong love of reading. Some excellent choices for a 0-4 year old child are:
Goodnight Moonby Margaret Wise Brown
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Seeby Bill Martin Jr. / Eric Carle (illustrator)
On the Day You Were Bornby Debra Frasier
As they get a little older and begin to look for plot and character development (generally 3-6), you may want to try:
Just So Stories& Rikki Tikki Taviby Rudyard Kipling
How do Dinosaurs Say Good Nightby Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
Stellaluna or Verdiby Janell Cannon
Or my all time favorite:
The Giving Treeby Shel Silverstein
Having said that all, books that you read together don’t have to be stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. This is a great age to introduce poetry. The author of my aforementioned favorite book, Shel Silverstein, has a few poetry books that are excellent choices:A Light in the Atticand Where the Sidewalk Ends. Children love his silly word combination and childish way of looking at the world. Children also love to interact with books like in theI Spyseries or Dragonology/ Wizardologytype books.
When kids reach the six / seven year old range, many parents stop reading to their children because the parents recognize that the kids can do it themselves, or they assume they get it at school, or, frankly, life just gets busier and they don’t have time. But this age is when reading can become a real joy with children who can read and remember from one reading session to another. After kids are about seven, you can start reading chapter books and come back to the same story night after night. Some of my favorite reads for this age include:
A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle
Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryby Ronald Dahl
The Secret Gardenby Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Chronicles of Narniaby C.S. Lewis
There is no age to stop reading to your child. If you don’t tell him that I told you, I’ll tell you that I still read to my almost 14 year old son. Reading to your children allows your children to access that next level of literature that they can’t yet decode themselves. Reading stretches their vocabularies and in some cases their understanding of humanity and the world like in Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea(Youth Edition) or The Diary of Anne Frank. However, if you child starts to shy away from reading out loud, don’t give up the shared reading experience. You can branch into parallel reading, where you both read the same book and discuss it over breakfast or some other special time. You can also branch out into books on CD as you drive around on errands. My daughter and I particularly like The Eyes of Amaryllisby Natalie Babbitt when she was in her early teenage years. There were times we would sit 10 and 15 minutes extra in the car to hear the “good parts”. Hopefully, this early time reading together will lead to a lifelong love of literature and years and years hence when they finally do sit down to read Ivanhoeand Wuthering Heights, you’ll get a call. “Mom / Dad, Have you ever read . . .? Did you know . . .? What did you think of . . .?”