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By Beverly Stewart, M. Ed.

Did you know that many doctors believe that a child who has never had the experience of being read to is not a fully healthy child?  The American Medical Association feels so strongly on the topic that it has suggested that all doctors prescribe “reading to children!”

Even the youngest children can benefit from parent-child read aloud time. For example, infants revel in the sound of a parent’s voice. The youngest tots come to associate reading with dedicated 1-on-1 parent-child time, snuggled in a warm lap, hearing a fun story and looking at pictures. And, as pre-K children grow and develop, they learn quickly that the printed words on the page are the same as the spoken words… magic!

As parent and child continue to read aloud together, important brain development occurs. Medically, being read aloud to helps to build pathways in the child’s brain that are needed for successful future reading experiences. These pathways are created before the child ever reaches kindergarten.

For pre-K children, read aloud sessions are also the perfect way to improve a child’s vocabulary. When speaking, most tend to use verbal shorthand, but books use complete sentences, complex and varied word selections, and more sophisticated language.

Reading aloud also increases a child’s attention span, so necessary for success once the child reaches school age. Plus, by reading aloud, a child’s appetite for reading is whetted. A child who has been read to will want to learn to read for himself!

Even late elementary school-aged and middle school-aged children benefit from regular read aloud sessions. Although these children can already read for themselves, a child’s reading level typically doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade. By reading above the child’s reading level, you challenge the their intellect and imagination, as well as provide motivation to read increasingly complex texts.

To make the read aloud experience the most enjoyable for both child and parent, remember:

  • Before beginning to read, always say the name of the book, the author, and the illustrator.
  • Read books with feeling, providing different voices for the various characters.
  • The most common mistake while reading aloud is reading too fast. Reading aloud comes naturally to very few people — to do it successfully you should practice.
  • Occasionally, read above children’s intellectual levels and challenge their minds.

Winter is the perfect time to cozy up with your kids and a great book! Here are a few top picks for every age:

  • Little Critter, I Was So Mad
  • Alexander and the terrible, horrible no good, very bad day
  • Hop on Pop
  • 5 Minutes Peace
  • The lady with the alligator purse
  • Cam Jansen series
  • The Magic Tree House series
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
  • Little House on the Prairie series
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone series
  • Alex Rider series
  • Little Women

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