5 reasons to read aloud to your child, today and always

storytime
CC BY 2.0 Jason Lander

Today is World Read Aloud Day, the best time to start a new family tradition, if you haven't already.

Today is World Read Aloud Day, a day specially marked for the pleasurable experience of reading aloud to another human. In most cases, this is a parent reading to a child, but it could also take the form of a younger person reading to an elderly individual, or a friend reading to someone who is ill. However it may look, reading aloud is a valuable, meaningful activity for all involved, which is why it's been given its own special day.

The purpose of World Read Aloud Day, according to its founder LitWorld, is to advocate for literacy as a human right. LitWorld points out that "750 million adults around the world -- two-thirds of them women -- lack basic reading and writing skills." When children are read to, it puts them at a great advantage, "nearly a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read-alouds."

At my stage in life, all reading aloud happens with my young kids. Every evening, we snuggle up under a duvet in their room and dive into whatever chapter book we have on the go. It's a highlight of our day, a rare moment of peace and quiet as we lose ourselves in the ongoing story.

There are so many reasons to read aloud to one's children, aside from the mere fun of it. These are worth remembering today and always.

1. It introduces them to the best authors and most famous stories.

Just as children need guidance to try new foods, visit new places, and experience traditional customs, they need the same sort of guidance when it comes to reading. Adults can introduce kids to specific authors, stories, and genres by reading them aloud.

I suspect my kids would subsist entirely on a literary diet of Geronimo Stilton and Diary of Wimpy Kid if I did not guide them out of it once a day. In recent months, we've read several Little House books, the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, Misty of Chincoteague, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, all of which they've loved.

2. Reading aloud pushes kids' literary limits.

Often young readers will skim over sections in books that they do not understand because the writing contains complex syntax; they may grasp only the general gist of the words. But when these same sections are read aloud by an adult, it helps the child to get comfortable with more complex vocabulary and sentence structure and to develop an appreciation for it. This, in turn, will make them better readers, writers, and students, better equipped to tackle great literature. (Read more about the reasons for this here.)

3. It's an irreplaceable bonding experience.

Reading together is a perfect antidote to the day's busyness. It forces parents to slow down, put down their phones, and focus all their attention on doing something with the child. That means a lot to the child.

Think back to your own childhood. Do you have warm memories of being read to by a parent? I can still hear my father singing (in an energetic monotone) his imagined version of the "wild rumpus" music in Maurice Sendak's classic, Where the Wild Things Are. I want my own kids to have those fun memories.

4. It's a counterpoint to screen mania.

At a time when far too much of children's entertainment comes from handheld devices, it is crucial to show them that there are other ways to divert oneself. Reading aloud opens worlds of imagination to them, reminding them of the importance of developing one's own mental pictures, rather than placidly accepting an image provided by a TV producer. Books allow for slower character development, and thus greater suspense. Reading can trigger valuable conversations with kids about heroic and cowardly actions, good versus evil, and what it was like to live in the past.

5. It calms them down.

In a perfect world, reading would be the last thing every child does with a parent before getting tucked into bed. It's an instant cure for overtired, rambunctious behavior. It prepares them for a night of sleep. It slows their little racing hearts and stops their bodies from bouncing around like popcorn kernels in a pot.

All of this is to say, take a moment to celebrate World Read Aloud Day today .... and, hopefully, every day.

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