We Love Reading Aloud to Little Kids, But Don't Stop Just Because They're Older

If your kids are reluctant readers, read to them. If your kids are fantastic fluent readers, read to them. He's turned 12? Read to him. She's more into soccer? Read to her. Make the time. Read to them as they eat snacks, while they do the dishes, in the car, right before bed.As a teacher and a mom, I know the joys of this, and I cannot let you miss out. Reading with older kids who are ready to compare cultures, rail against injustice, empathize with the downtrodden and discover different perspectives — it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness and nudge an awakening consciousness.Lately, parents and grandparents who decades ago devoured Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time have asked me whether sixth-graders are ready to take on this story's sophisticated themes. My advice? Take advantage of the hype for the new movie version and read the book to your preteens. Re-experience the book as an adult while considering with your child topics like time travel, spirituality and being different.Few human encounters are as gratifying as sharing a beloved book with a favorite person. People read to babies and toddlers, cuddling up with Pat the Bunny and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Later, we sound out Hop on Pop with our preschoolers. Yet, once kids are reading chapter books independently, many parents unnecessarily abandon the ritual of reading aloud to their children.This is a lost opportunity. Delving into books with older children creates a space for intimacy, shared values and the discussion of big ideas.Much research proves that students who are read to throughout their school years fare better academically than their peers. These kids build listening skills. They pick up advanced vocabulary and background knowledge on a wide range of topics; they comprehend advanced sentence structures. Yet, to me, those aren't the most compelling reasons to read aloud.Just do it for the pleasure! Some of my richest memories of parenting are associated with reading. I've rolled on the floor laughing with my kids over the antics of Junie B. Jones. My son was mesmerized by Greek myths, so I pulled out my tattered copy of The Odyssey from college and read it to him. He was 7 and never could have approached Homer's epic on his own, but in the reading, he was captivated by the action and otherworldliness. Did some aspects of the story go over his head? Of course. But the overall adventure captured his imagination and did not let go. More supernatural tales followed.My son and I started the then-new Harry Potter series together when he was 8, discovering the rules of quidditch and the identity of Tom Riddle. Five years later, when she was ready, I started the series again with my daughter, Cameron. Throughout a nine-year journey we contemplated together the death of a brave teenager, a prodigy's cruel foster parents, an all-out war and adults who weren't who they seemed. By the time the seventh volume of the series came out, my kids were 17 and 12, and the three of us eagerly indulged — now privately and individually — in a marathon reading of the saga's conclusion. The fictional characters' arrival at adulthood offered us an occasion to examine together marriage, responsibility and fate, within the safe confines of literature.A decade later, our family's reading habit carries on. Our son Reo is recommending recent articles from The New Yorker, and Cameron is reading aloud a David Sedaris book to me as I cook dinner. She's also writing scripts that audiences around Texas enjoy. This connection to shared reading — which started so simply with chewed-on board books — endures.Don't miss the chance to connect with your kids through reading together. Explore worlds, admire heroes, ponder possibilities, pull for the underdog, laugh at the ludicrous, weep for the despondent, and celebrate the happily ever after. Make reading a part of your family's story.Ann Madonia Casey teaches at Sloan Creek Intermediate School in Lovejoy ISD. Email: ann-casey@sbcglobal.net  Continue reading...

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