The Importance of Reading Aloud to Children– of ALL Ages

I was all set to do a post this week about things your kiddos can do while they listen to stories and books, but then it dawned on me… Before we talk about that, we need to address WHY those same children– children of all ages, even if they can already read to themselves– need to be listening to stories and books in the first place! So, did you know…

In 1985, the Commission on Reading released a report compiling results of a 2-year-study entitled Becoming a Nation of Readers. Tasked with determining why U.S. school test scores were alarming, the Commission’s report states, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” And this goes for test scores and subjects outside of reading and language arts, as reading is at the center of most curriculum. Similarly, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to more frequently are more likely to count to 20 (or higher), write their own names, and engage with books than those who don’t get read-aloud time regularly.

Reading Jamberry to our 3-week-old daughter

Why does read-aloud time have such a positive effect on children? When children listen to stories, they are:

  • gaining an understanding of printed language and physical books– eventually connecting print on a page to the noises they hear and manipulating books correctly to read them themselves
  • building vocabulary (especially when exposed to repeated readings)– children are exposed to a wider range of words through literature than they are through everyday conversation
  • building fluency– when you consider that fluency encompasses expression, intonation, and phrasing in addition to rate, children learn SO much when they hear language instead of simply see it in print. This is one very important reason to keep reading to your children, even when they can read themselves!
  • building oral comprehension, which will spill over to reading comprehension– and since a child’s oral comprehension is usually stronger than reading comprehension, listening to stories is also a great way to expose that child to more advanced vocabulary and more complicated sentence structures and storylines
  • learning our (complicated) grammar rules– simply stated, as adults, many of us determine grammatically correct English by saying it out loud to figure out if it “sounds right.” Hearing more grammatically correct English will help children also figure out when language “sounds right.”
  • creating background knowledge and learning about the world around them– kids can be exposed to people and cultures around the world without leaving their house when listening to stories
  • learning that reading can be fun and building an association between reading and pleasure
  • bonding with the adults with whom they are sharing stories
  • increasing their social-emotional understanding of the world around them and developing empathy for people with differing backgrounds and experiences
Babies enjoy ANY read-aloud– they love the cuddling and hearing your voice!

For children who are able to read on their own, all of the above still ring true when they are read to as well! Remember that most children can listen to and understand something written on a much higher level than they are able to read independently (think about your 3-year-old who can’t read at all but can talk your ear off about last night’s bedtime story, or your first grader who asks for more and more Harry Potter each night…). So exposing them to more complicated and complex text through read-aloud increases their vocabulary and comprehension just like it does for small children who can’t read independently!

Who has time for this, you might ask? All it takes is 10-15 minutes a day! If you read to your kiddo (and remember that audiobooks help with most of the above gains as well) for 15 minutes a day, then in 5 years, she will have listened to 27,375 minutes of stories! That’s 456.25 hours of stories, of language, of words, of learning, of bonding, and more by the time she starts kindergarten!


For more information on all of the above, some of my favorite read-aloud resources are:


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