The Importance of Sharing Stories
“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.”
– Carl Sagan
Sharing stories often begins with reading aloud. Reading aloud provides a number of opportunities and benefits for children of all ages, from strengthening their vocabulary to increasing their attention span.
“Reading aloud to older children-even up to the age of 14, has benefits both academic and emotional” says Jim Trelease, a Boston-based journalist who wrote The Read-Aloud Handbook, in 1979.
Here are seven important benefits of reading aloud with children:
1. Develops stronger vocabulary. Children acquire language primarily through listening. Reading aloud lets children regularly hear new words in new contexts, which builds their vocabulary and helps them develop a stronger awareness of the communicative possibilities of language. According to Trelease, a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade. Children can understand books that are too hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. “You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it.” Reading at this level happens through the ear.
2. Builds connections between the spoken and written word. When children hear words read aloud, they begin seeing how printed words are closely connected to spoken words. This helps them recognize the difference between the arrangement of spoken language and printed text.
3. Provides enjoyment. Children generally enjoy being read to, which encourages them to see and experience reading as something fun and positive. Reading aloud makes them more likely to become interested in learning to read, which is likely to then spark a lifelong love of reading.
4. Increases attention span. Unlike watching television, reading or being read to promotes a slower unfolding of events and ideas. This encourages children to listen, pay attention and concentrate, which after a while can increase their overall attention span.
5. Strengthens cognition. A well written book exposes children to sophisticated language, which can strengthen their cognitive abilities. When children are regularly exposed to the sophisticated language of quality literature, they learn how to apply their cognitive abilities to understand the text.
6. Provides a safe way of exploring strong emotions. Reading a story aloud that explores particular emotions helps some children to accept their own feelings and understand how others feel. By reading aloud together, stories can help children feel more comfortable discussing their emotions with others.
7. Promotes bonding. Reading aloud with children provides benefits for adults too. The quality time spent together promotes bonding and strengthens relationships, making it easier for children to develop their social, communication and interpersonal skills.