Discover 21 benefits of reading aloud to babies, kids, and teens. Expand vocabulary. Make memories. Foster a life-long love of reading. All this and more, just from reading books together!
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What Is Reading Aloud?
Board books, picture books, chapter books. A. A. Milne, Sandra Boynton, L. M. Montgomery. All fair game for reading aloud. Reading aloud to your babies, kids, and teens is simply selecting a book and reading it aloud while your little ones listen. Snuggles and snacks are optional, but awesome.
Reading aloud together shares the literary experience. It’s educational, enjoyable, and downright essential for babies and kids that aren’t reading on their own yet.
What about teens? Reading books together in the teen years maintains the read aloud habit and allows for teens to continue to be exposed to amazing literature. There’s no need to stop reading aloud just because your kids are getting older!
Why Should I Read Aloud to My Babies, Kids, and Teens?
Why read aloud? Well, quite simply, because the return on investment is so great. A few minutes of reading aloud before bed (or wherever it fits in your day) has the potential to positively impact our children’s future in a variety of ways. For instance, a few of the benefits of reading aloud include: expanding children’s vocabulary, building family relationships and memories, and fostering a life-long love of reading.
All this and more from an activity that is inexpensive, requires little time, and is 100% mess free (no paint, glitter, or glue required!).
Whether you consider yourself a “reader” or not, as adults we are always reading. From road signs to Twitter posts. Jane Austen to Calvin & Hobbs. Cookbooks to car seat manuals.
A love of reading (which reading aloud will help secure) and exposure to great books (anything from board books to classic novels) will benefit your child their entire life. As author/illustrator Tomie dePaola said, “Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.” Now THAT is something worth devoting time to!
When Should I Start Reading Aloud?
Maybe you’ve always eagerly waited to share your favorite books with your kids, but you’re wondering…is it too soon? Maybe too late?
The best time to start reading aloud is right away! Whether you have a new infant or a growing teen, the right time to start is today. Newborns will benefit even from the sound of your voice and teens will benefit from the shared experience of reading together (not to mention the educational benefits that will sneak in too!). Hint: If your teens resist, try an audio book (maybe in the car while driving to and from activities).
Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests reading aloud every day to your little ones? Yep, that’s right! Starting right away is important. What is also important is establishing consistency. You don’t have to read piles of books every day. Just pick a time in your day when it fits (after school, before bed, while eating a meal together, etc.) and be consistent in reading a little bit every day.
Continuing to read as your baby grows sets the stage for toddlers and older kids to love this special time (and sit still for it!). They will continue to be eager listeners as sessions (and books!) grow longer.
Start Reading Aloud Early for Maximum Benefits
It’s also worth mentioning that “Since it will be years before an infant uses his or her eyes for actual reading, the best source for vocabulary and brain building becomes the ear.” – Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook.
Think of it, if a child starts reading around the age of 5-7, that’s several years where they will only be taking in information via books if someone else reads to them! Thus, reading aloud is not just beneficial, but crucial.
Whether you are in the midst of raising babies, kids, or teens, sharing books together is essential, but it’s also a delight. When you open a book together, you’ll experience the many educational benefits of reading aloud…but you will also just have fun too! Laughs and giggles, suspense, and of course, requests for “just one more book” will define your read aloud times. The benefits of reading aloud are many, so read on and discover all that reading together has to offer!
21 Benefits of Reading Aloud
1. Reading Aloud Is Easy.
All you need is a book and a listener. Don’t feel the need to read quickly, theatrically (unless you want to!), or perfectly. Your own skills at reading aloud will grow too as you start the consistent habit with your kids.
2. It’s Fun.
Watching a young baby begin to focus their eyes on board books and listen curiously is a wonder. Listening to a toddler giggle at the antics in a humorous picture book (like Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee, or Bear Wants More) or your elementary reader repeatedly ask for one more chapter is absolute joy!
3. Reading Aloud Promotes Family Bonding.
From the early stages of infancy, parenting can be challenging. Reading together is activity that promotes closeness and bonding. It brings peace to a day that might otherwise have felt askew. It gives busy parents a time to purposefully reconnect with their kids. And there’s no better way to settle down before bedtime than with a stack of books to read aloud.
4. It Builds Family Culture.
You’ll discover as you read books together that the stories tend to stick with your family in a special way. Whether it’s giggles during Sheep In a Jeep, discussing Anne’s foibles in Anne of Green Gables, or recounting Bilbo’s daring escapades in The Hobbit, you will soon discover that your whole family has a growing collection of inside jokes, quotes, or reminisces…all from books read aloud together.
5. Reading Aloud Makes Memories.
Whether it’s the nighttime snuggles of pre-bedtime reads, listening to an audio book on a family road trip, or just re-reading a favorite chapter book with successive children…your children will certainly remember your read-aloud times, but don’t forget that YOU will too. Reading aloud builds memories for a lifetime.
6. It’s an Easy Way to Kick-Start Education.
As noted above, if most children generally start reading around the age of 5-7, that is several years where we could be kick-starting their education through reading aloud excellent board books and picture books. There is no need to place an educational emphasis on your read aloud times to reap these benefits. Just simply read, read, read. Pick outstanding books, read them to your child, enjoy the time spent together, and let the benefits work their magic in the background.
7. Reading Aloud Promotes Early Mastery of Language.
Reading aloud frequently (and repetitively) to your little ones will soon show fruit as your toddler repeats animals noises, simple words, and even begins to finish sentences as you read. Books like Dear Zoo, Moo Baa La La La, and Press Here are examples of books that encourage interaction from the very beginning.
8. Exposes Your Kids to Advanced Vocabulary.
To summarize Jim Trelease in The Read-Aloud Handbook, even though everyday conversation provides our children with a wide scope of essential vocabulary, exposing them to MORE words (so-called “rare” words) is what has the greatest impact in determining a child’s future vocabulary…and literacy.
How can we expose children to more “rare” words? We can achieve this exposure easily through simply reading aloud. Books on books on books. And in case you were wondering, listening to TV programs doesn’t even compare to what books can do in this regard!
9. Reading Aloud Improves Reading Comprehension at Any Age.
I love this quote from Sarah MacKenzie in her book, Read-Aloud Family, “When we do the work of decoding for our kids–when we read a book aloud and take on the work of figuring out correct rhythms, cadence, and voice for each line–the child listening gets to spend her mental energy in a different way. She enjoys the story and makes connections. This is practice at reading comprehension.” Thus, even reading aloud books with experienced teen readers (or opting for an audio book!) has the benefit of improving reading comprehension.
10. Reading Aloud Provides a Welcome Break During Busy Days of Parenting.
Parenting can be exhausting. Preparing meals, cleaning up, helping with homework, changing diapers. Yes, exhausting is a fitting word. But, gathering up a stack of books and snuggling in for a read aloud session together is a restful activity that provides a welcome change of pace.
11. Reading Aloud Gives Parents Opportunities to Start Hard Conversations.
Addressing topics like death, war, racism, and more can be challenging as our children grow. Reading aloud books that address these topics (directly or indirectly) is a way to dialogue with our children about tough issues, even from a young age.
12. Reading Aloud Provides a Chance to Learn Something New.
As your child grows you will discover that you learn too as you read aloud together. Historical picture books for instance teach us about times and circumstances we may be unfamiliar with, all with the benefit of engaging illustrations alongside. And of course, exposure to a variety of authors and illustrators (Tomie dePaola, James E. Ransome, Eliza Wheeler, Jerry Pinkney, Jan Brett, and so many more!), will give your child an overview and understanding of a breadth of creative styles in the literary realm.
13. Reading Aloud Provides a Chance to Share Stories That Are Not Our Own.
As parents, we realize we are limited in the experiences we are able to give our child. Books are one way to share stories that are not our own. We can purposefully share stories that will encourage kindness, empathy, a heart for truth and justice and more.
14. Reading Aloud Helps New Readers Learn–Without Pressure.
Encouraging new readers to read over your shoulder as you read aloud gives them a chance to work on their new skill without the pressures of needing to “perform”. You can even play games like alternating reading pages with them or encouraging them to read their old board books to a younger sibling.
15. Reading Aloud Fosters a Life-Long Love of Reading.
Favorite picture books, chapter books, and the memories of time spent reading together will solidify a life-long love of reading in your child. As Beverly Cleary said, “Children should learn that reading is pleasure, not just something that teachers make you do in school.”
16. Reading Books Together Is Inexpensive Or Even Free.
With reliance on libraries, book-sharing among friends, and taking advantage of garage sales and online book deals, one of the benefits of reading aloud is that you can fill your house with books without spending much at all.
17. Reading Aloud Doesn’t Take Much Time.
Whether you read for five minutes, fifteen, or fifty, every bit counts. Sneak in a chapter while waiting for an appointment. Make a practice of reading a few board books to your infant before bed. Select an audio book with your teen and listen in the car. Embrace a little bit every day and reap the rewards in years to come.
18. Reading Aloud Is a No-Mess Activity.
When we’ve had our fill of the necessary mess that comes with raising kids, it’s really refreshing to pull out a stack of books, enjoy them together, and put them right back on the shelf. No paint, no glue, and definitely no glitter involved.
19. Reading Aloud Is a Calming Activity.
Whether you read to a newborn or a whole host of energetic children, there is something about reading aloud that calms in almost any circumstance. Illustrator Helen Oxenbury was inspired by the calming effects of reading aloud and looking at pictures together when her infant daughter was plagued by itchy eczema that kept both of them up at night.
20. You’ll Read More Too!
We’ve talked about the benefits of reading aloud for your kids, but guess what? You’ll be reading more too! Of course, you’ll be reading what your child is listening to (and these books will grow more and more interesting for you as your child ages), but you will also enjoy renewed interest in reading yourself. Trips to library will be an integral part of your routine and you’ll love watching your whole family become a house full of readers.
21. Gives Parents a Chance to Share Truth With Their Kids.
Last, but not least. I personally love the ability that reading aloud gives me to share the gospel with my Little One from an early age. Through enjoying picture books like The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross (and later on books like The Biggest Story, Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings), reading books provides opportunities to start conversations and share truth with our babies, kids, and teens.
I hope this list encouraged you to read aloud with your little ones! It’s such a simple activity that doesn’t require much of us as parents, but the benefits of reading aloud impact our kids in many ways beyond even this list.
What Should I Read to My Babies and Kids?
If you are struggling with WHAT to read with your kids, I have resources that will help. If you are looking for a place to start, I suggest taking a few minutes to browse my age-specific “Stuck at Home: Read Aloud Books for Babies and Kids” booklist. This list gives you starting places for babies through teenagers.
The following are more booklists you can peruse for reading ideas. And don’t forget to follow along on Instagram where I share frequent reviews, reading tips, and inspiration for a life-long love of reading!
- Farm Animal Board Books for Babies
- Picture Books for Black History Month
- The Best Winter Picture Books
- Best Picture Books for Kids – My Instagram Picks
- The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross Book Review
Resources Listed In This Post
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Reading Recommendations
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
- Read-Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie
- Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
- Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
- Sheep In a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, illustrated by Margot Apple
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
- Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
- Press Here by Herve Tullet
- Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
- Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome
- Wherever You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
- The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
- The Mitten by Jan Brett
- The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross by Carl Laferton and Catalina Echeverri
- The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark
- Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien