Reading Aloud—”Single Most Important Activity”
You may have tangible wealth untold:
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.
“The Reading Mother,”
Best Loved Poems of the American People
Educators, researchers, and pediatricians agree: reading to your child from an early age contributes a great deal to her development of literacy.
When you read aloud to your child, many elements combine to create a uniquely rich and powerful experience with written language. Research shows reading to a child in the years before school is associated with the development of many early literacy skills:
- awareness of print and the conventions of written language (Wells, 1986; National Early Literacy Panel, 2006)
- phonemic awareness (Burgess, 2002)
- oral language skills (National Early Literacy Panel, 2006)
- development of a rich vocabulary (Elley, 1989; National Early Literacy Panel, 2006)
- the ability to use strategies to increase listening and reading comprehension (Teale, 1981; Gold & Gibson, 2001)
Even more persuasive, however, are the words of generations of parents and children, who will tell you that sharing the magic of a good book does more than build skills and knowledge—it can be downright fun. Reading with your child brings together the best conditions for early learning. Because you know your child, you are able to choose books that build on her interests and previous experiences. And by making this an enjoyable, shared experience, the child connects reading to highly positive feelings that motivate her to want to read.
Reading aloud, when the story is a good fit for the child’s age and interests, has the power to spark and fuel the “can do/want to do” attitude so vital for literacy learning.
In 1985, a government commission proclaimed reading aloud:
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading . . .”
(Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985, p. 23)
The opinion was echoed in a more recent statement from the International Reading Association and National Association for the Education of Young Children (1998). In 2006, the National Early Literacy Panel, after examining 300 research-based studies, concluded that reading aloud with preschoolers builds both language skills and awareness of print. Further, the panel found both of these to be important in later reading achievement. In support of these important findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics directs pediatricians to prescribe reading to children as one of the instructions given to parents at well-child checkups (Reach Out and Read National Center, 2005).