The Importance of Reading Out Loud to Young Children


When children listen to a parent or teacher read a story, they are often looking at the reader or at the book’s illustrations, but not at the printed word. If kids are looking at everything but the letters on the page, does being read to actually help them learn to read?

In a joint study by the University of Virginia and Ohio State University, researchers found that a small adjustment in the way preschool teachers read aloud boosted children’s literacy skills.

Preschool teachers in 85 Ohio schools were given a year’s worth of children’s books. Some of the teachers also received a set of cards with brief questions to ask the children four to eight times while reading aloud to them. The questions were designed to draw the preschoolers’ attention to the written text and took only an extra 90 seconds per reading session.

After two years, the children who were asked the questions showed significantly higher spelling skills than the kids who simply listened to the stories being read, according to the study.

Scholars who were not involved in the study note that in order for a child to fully benefit from this technique, it would need to occur on a consistent basis over a sustained period of time. According to one critic, the program would be difficult to implement in schools because teachers have varying levels of competency.

This creates an opportunity for parents to help their children get the most out of story time at home, the study noted. All it takes is a few simple questions to motivate the child to look at letters and words. Parents can ask their children to point to a letter of the alphabet or basic words such as ‘cat’ or ‘house.’ Also helpful is asking them to find the first or last word on the page.

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