Written by contributor Malia Hollowell of Playdough to Plato
Why Is Story Time So Important?
I am an elementary teacher by training and have spent many parent-teacher conferences and open houses encouraging parents to spend at least 20 minutes a day reading out loud to their children. What’s strange, however, is that I have rarely taken the time to really share WHY reading to your children and story time are so important. Doctors tell patients to exercise in order to lose weight. Flight attendants tell passengers to buckle seatbelts to prevent accidental injury. It only seems fair that I finally take the time to share the three critical benefits of reading aloud to your child. If you’re struggling to find time to fit in a story at the end of the day, prepare to be newly inspired to make it happen.
1. Increase Vocabulary
My two and half year old son loves reading The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. It is a classic rhyming book sharing the ins and outs of life on a farm. The book is filled with words I would never (and I mean NEVER) use on my own. Case in point, I had to actually think about what the word “lowed” meant in the sentence “The big cow lowed.” And I cannot think of a time that I described “sweet warm hay” or talked about “bantam roosters”.
Reading stories out loud to your children introduces them to thousands of words they would not otherwise hear. The more words children are exposed to, the greater their vocabulary becomes, and the better able they are to communicate and understand words later. By exposing them to words early, you are building a strong foundation of vocabulary that they will rely on throughout their life.
2. Improve Comprehension
Being able to understand what is happening in a story is the whole point of reading. After all, we would be wasting our time if we couldn’t remember anything we read once the book was closed.
Teachers call this “comprehension”, and when you read out loud to your children you are giving them the chance to think about what is happening in the book instead of worrying about how to sound out the words. By focusing on comprehension, children become better able to predict what will happen next, connect stories to their own life, identify the moral of a story, imagine what the characters look like… and the list goes on.
You can help your children strengthen their comprehension more quickly by asking questions as you read. For example:
• What does this story make you think about?
• How does this story make you feel?
• What was your favorite part of the story? Why was that your favorite?
• Who was your favorite character? Why was he/she your favorite?
• Who were the important characters (people or animals) in this story?
• Do you think ____ (the name of a character) made good or bad choices? Give an example.
3. Snuggle and Bond
I saved my favorite benefit for last. Cuddling up with a book and spending 20 minutes of uninterrupted time together creates treasured memories for both you and your children. In fact, some children refuse to read out loud to their parents because they are fearful that their parents will stop reading out loud to them. Children love snuggling up and enjoying undistracted time together and it’s pretty difficult to cook, clean, text, or email when you are reading a book aloud. Read stories to your children as long as they will let you. Curling up with a good book will spark conversations you might not otherwise have and will ensure that you all enjoy a little bonding time at the end of your very busy days.
Join the Discussion
What other benefits do you see from reading aloud with your children? Share in the comments below.