Some of my earliest memories as a child centre on books. I remember looking at picture books, going to the library, and listening to my mother read aloud to my siblings and me. Our children’s Bible story books enthralled me with their wonderful illustrations and the colourful language brought the stories of God into my heart. Fast forward several years, and you would find me seated on our sofa, reading aloud to our children – all at various stages, some snuggled up close, others doodling or playing with Lego as I read I started when they were infants and continued for as long as they let me – around Grade 7 or 8.
Reading aloud to your child is perhaps one of the most important activities you can do with your child to start him or her on a path of success in learning. Many of us spend a good deal of time reading to our very young children but stop as soon as our children begin to read for themselves. A strong case can be made for reading aloud to children, even when they are fluent readers. Most children love being read aloud to – it is a time of quiet bonding with parents, and creates a love for the written word, a love for story that can last for a lifetime. When we read aloud, we are exposing our children to ideas, places, times that they would perhaps not experience otherwise. Whereas movies provide ready-made images, books allow children to create their own visual images of what is happening, a skill which transfers into the classroom. When you read aloud, you are able to read material at a higher reading level than the child would himself be able to read – thereby, expanding his vocabulary and exposing him to new materials which in turn better prepares him for more learning. Listening to a story being read also teaches children to pay attention and to hold their focus; this skill develops as they mature and leads to success at school. As Christian parents, we also have the opportunity to choose books which will enrich our children’s spiritual growth. Whether a book is overtly Christian or not, the opportunity to discuss and evaluate presents itself in a natural way.
If you are already reading aloud to your child, continue doing so. And if you are not, can I encourage you to make a start? I realize that some of us are more natural readers than others, but there is much to be gained in this endeavour. Ask friends or teachers or librarians for good book lists. Think back to some of the books you enjoyed as a child – chances are strong that your child will love them too. Start with reading age appropriate versions of the Bible. I promise you will never regret the effort!
Written by Jen Antonides, Muskoka Christian School’s Kindergarten teacher and mother of 5 children.