You should read out loud to your kids!
You should make your kids read for themselves!
You should make your kids read out loud!
You should let your kids read silently!
So many voices! So many opinions! So much confusion! Who do you listen to? What is most important? Is reading with your kids really all that important? Is reading out loud to your kids more important? Is having your kids read for themselves more important? What about reading comprehension? What about….
Hold on a second here. Before you go down the rabbit hole of ‘what if’ and ‘what about’ and get yourself all worked up over these huge ambiguous details that may or may not be facts that “they” say…let’s pause. Take a deep breath. Let’s back up a bit…
Let’s start at the very beginning,“Do-Re-Mi”
A very good place to start.
When you read, you begin with A, B, C
When you sing, you begin with do, re, mi
Now, we’re going to stick with reading today (even though it is fun to sing!), but I fully agree with Fraulein Maria, let’s start at the very beginning. You see, all these questions are important and all of them deserve an answer. But before you get into the individual reading verses reading out loud debate, there’s a more foundational question: Why is reading important in the first place?
Reading is Foundational
It’s a rather established fact that reading and reading comprehension are very important. In fact, in today’s society, it’s hard to function without knowing how to read and write!
I ran across some staggering statistics just recently: 52% of Americans have a basic or below-basic reading level.* Just 52%!! That’s just barely over half of Americans!
Let me break this down a little bit more:
- 14% of Americans can read and write at a 1st to 3rd grade level.
- 34% can read and write at a 4th to 5th grade level.
- 36% can read and write at an intermediate level or 6th to 8th grade level.
- 12% are considered proficient at a 9th to 10th grade level.
- Only 2% of Americans qualify as having college proficiency reading levels or 11th grade and higher reading and writing skills.
These numbers are staggering! Only 14% of all Americans qualify as proficient readers? Wow. How many people are missing out on the joy and love of reading simply because they’ve never been taught how to read or how to read well?
Why Is Reading Important?
But these facts and statistics, much as they are alarming, still leave us with this foundational question: Why is reading so important?
Reading and learning how to read well is the key to unlock learning.
Do you realize that if you know how to read, you can learn about anything under the sun you want to learn about? Do you realize that when you teach your child to read and read well, you give them the greatest tool and greatest weapon they can possible have?
You see, reading unlocks a world of learning. It unlocks a world of entertainment, a world of delight, a world of traveling through the pages of books. When you know how to read, your possibilities are endless! Anything you want to learn about or study about is possible!
But is that all there is to it? Is it just about knowing how to read? Not exactly. You see, if you know how to read, but you don’t understand the meaning of the words you’re reading, it’s not going to make much sense, right?
Think about it this way: Let’s say you are visiting Portugal and you sit down at a restaurant to order dinner. Now, you might be able to sound out some of the words on the menu since the Portuguese language and the English language use essentially the same alphabet. But are you going to know what all those words mean? Are you going to understand them? No, probably not! In other words, you won’t have any way of knowing with certainty that you ordered fish or chicken for your diner until the place lands on the table! …Unless someone helps you understand!
You see, reading is incredibly important, but there is another component to reading: Understanding! Taking the facts and information you read on a page and understanding what the words are saying and the message those words are telling you.
Reading words on a page and knowing how to read the words on a page is a wonderful and necessary thing, but if you don’t understand what those words are saying, you’re not going to get the full benefit of reading. In other words, you need to blend knowing how to read with reading comprehension.
How Do You Teach Your Children to Love Reading?
So, reading is foundational. Reading is important. But how can you teach this to your children? How can you help them reach those high levels of reading and understanding as well as teaching them to love reading in the process?
Now, first of all, you need to realize this will not happen overnight! Learning to read is a process that takes time.
Secondly, you need to make sure you’re setting realistic expectations. While there are some young children who enjoy sitting down and reading Charles Dickens (take Roald Dahl’s Matilda, for example), the vast majority of 7 year olds are not going to be reading at a college level proficiency!
However, every child can – and should – be learning how to read and growing in their reading and comprehension knowledge each and every day.
And yet the question remains: How? How do you teach your children to love reading and to read well?
The simple answer: Books and time.
The long answer: Books and time!
It seems that everywhere you turn, there’s a new learning series or a new game or a new app claiming to be able to teach your child to read in record time. But the fact of the matter is, there’s no one perfect way of teaching a child to read that will work perfectly for every child! Reading takes time to teach. It takes time to learn. And the best way your child will learn is by matching up the method of teaching with their learning style.
Personally, I’m a firm believer that learning how to read should involve physical books. There’s a difference that happens when you hold a book in your hands, feeling the texture of the pages as you work through learning the words at your own pace. Now, there are a lot of digital games and apps that are wonderful enhancements for learning how to read and taking reading comprehension to the next level. But nothing compares to sitting down with a child one on one and reading with them, reading to them, and having them read to you.
So how do you do it? When it comes to the practical ‘it’s time to sit down and teach your child to read’… how do you do it?
There are times when asking ‘How do I do this?’ has a simple answer. For example: ‘How do I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?’ has a pretty straightforward answer. And yet, when it comes to asking the question ‘How do I teach my child to read?’ there is no set, step-by-step formula to follow. There is no exact pattern to follow that will work the exact same way for every child.
Instead, teaching your child to read is a combination of a few methods. Again, there’s not any one way that will work perfectly for every child. Every child will need a slightly different blend of these four methods. But using these four methods in combination will give you the best results.
Now, each of these 4 methods deserves more explanation than what you see here. In other words, these are the highlights! In the upcoming weeks, we’re going to dive deep into what each of these methods looks like as well as give some real, practical suggestions on how to put these different methods into practice. Plus, I’ll share a bunch of my favorite resources and books along the way.
Method 1 :: Reading out loud to your child.
It’s very important to read out loud to your children starting from a very young age. Children need to hear language. They need to hear the cadence, the rhythm, the sound of different words. They need to hear books even before they’re at a point where they can truly understand every word that’s said. They need to hear books read to them before they are able to read the books for themselves.
As they grow older, they need to hear big words in the story and have the freedom to stop you and say “Mommy, what does that mean?” This expands their vocabulary and begins to teach them how to figure out the meaning of the word through the context of what’s written in the book.
It’s also important to ask questions as you read to your children. Ask them about the story. Ask them what happened. This helps build their comprehension or understanding. You see, it’s possible to listen to a book and let the words wash over you like background noise. But when you stop and ask questions as you read, you’re teaching your children to be active listeners. Not only hearing the words of the book, but listening and understanding what’s being read and the message the words are delivering.
Method 2 :: Having your child read out loud to you.
Having your child read out loud to you is essential as they continue on their reading journey. Now, it’s natural to have your child read out loud to you as they are first learning how to read and sounding out each letter of each word on the page. Yet somewhere along the line, this method seems to drop off.
And yet, there are many odd letter and sound combinations in the English language. If you don’t know what they are, if you don’t hear them spoken out loud, you’ll start to pronounce words incorrectly. Or you won’t connect the written word with the word you’ve been hearing all your life. It’s important to make sure your children are learning – and saying – these combinations properly.
Additionally, the more a child reads out loud, the more natural it becomes when they need to do it in front of a group. Knowing how to read well in front of a group helps boost their confidence.
Not only that, but children learn to be great storytellers the more they read out loud. This also helps with their reading comprehension as you hear them adding emotion and those ‘storyteller’ elements as they read. It shows they’re not just reading flat words on a page, but telling a story to their listeners through the words they’re reading. And the more ‘storyteller’ elements they add as they read, the more it shows you they truly understand and comprehend the written words on the page.
Method 3 :: Having your child read silently.
Let’s face it, you do not have 4 hours a day to sit and listen to your children read to you. Even though reading is and should be a priority, it isn’t the only priority of your day – particularly when you have multiple children!
While it’s essential that your children read out loud to you and you read out loud to your children, your children also need to learn how to read silently or to “read in my head” as my children like to call it.
Now, this idea opens up a whole new line of questions about what books to have your child read, how long should you require them to read, how do you check up on whether or not they’re understanding what they’re reading and more! Be sure to check out this post all about how you can encourage your child to read silently as well as giving you real, practical tools to make it happen.
Method 4 :: Modeling reading silently to your child
You’re busy. Life is crazy. But at the same time, your children need to see you sitting down to enjoy a good book – even if only for 10 minutes! This modeling will show them that reading isn’t an isolated task that only happens connected with school, but essential to all of life.
The Final Chapter
Reading is an essential part of life. Taking the time to prioritize reading while your children are young is one of the best ways you can encourage and teach your children to read.
Yet, it’s never too late to begin reading with your child! Don’t get discouraged! Start wherever you are right here and right now. Spend more time reading with your children today than you did yesterday. Congratulations! You just made a step in the right direction!
Don’t let the opinions of others scare you or dictate when you decide. Find out what works for you and your family and incorporate those ideas into your life. Remember, the question isn’t “Which one way is best?” The question is “How can I teach my child to read and to read well?”
Now, this is a lot of big picture information. But when it comes down to it, you can understand the big picture behind why reading is important without knowing how it looks practically in your life, right? Dive into how these 4 different methods look on a practical level in the post How to Teach Your Child to Read in a Simple, Easy Way. It’s a closer look at how to make each of these methods happen and what it looks like in the day in and day out rhythms of life.
*Statistics taken from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). PIAAC does a comprehensive literacy assessment every 10 years. These statistics were taken from the 2013 report.
- How To Teach Your Child To Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 1
- How To Teach Your Child To Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 2
- How To Teach Your Child To Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 3
- How To Make Reading Fun and Interesting
- Creative Book Reports: Leave the Bland and Boring Behind
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.