Guest Blog

“Books” – Reading Aloud to Children and the Magical World of Picture Books

November 4, 2017

Words Duriya A.  
Digital Art Fatema A (cosmicweavers).


Reading Aloud to Children and the Magical World of Picture Books

As an international reading ambassador for Scholastic Inc., it is my pleasure and passion to talk to parents, educators, school leaders, policymakers, children and everyone who will listen (and sometimes even to those who won’t) about the importance of reading in shaping a person’s life – especially the impact it has on a child’s future. I’ll start this text by reproducing below some well-documented research on the importance of reading and reading aloud in a child’s life and the parents’ role in developing a love for reading.

Young children who have access to books in the home and who are read aloud to regularly have the best chance of becoming successful readers.

– Dr. Catherine Snow, Professor of Education, Harvard University

Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.

Dr. Marilyn Adams, Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print

Having reading role model parents or a large book collection at home has more of an impact on kids’ reading frequency than does household income.

Graeper, 2014; Hailey, 2014; Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report™, 2013

Reading aloud increases your child’s vocabulary and attention span. Additionally, “reading aloud to your child is a commercial for reading. When you read aloud, you’re whetting a child’s appetite for reading … A child who has been read to will want to learn to read herself. She will want to do what she sees her parents doing. But if a child never sees anyone pick up a book, she isn’t going to have that desire”.

Trelease, 2013; Massaro, 2016

Reading aloud to children is so easy to do, so inexpensive, requires nothing more than a book, and yet, it is so beneficial for the child (and the reader). There is a lot of evidence that shows that children who are read aloud to not only grow up to become lifelong readers but are more likely to succeed academically than those who are not read aloud to as children. No child is too young or too old to be read aloud to. Parents tend to stop reading aloud to children when the child becomes an independent reader, but children all over the world have told us they wished their parents would continue to read aloud to them long after they can read by themselves because for them, reading-aloud-time is a special time with their parents.

Daytime read-alouds should be active, involve role-playing and much activity. These are good times to introduce new books that arouse the child’s curiosity and excitement.

Read alouds should be interactive – allow the child to lead if she wants to, to show you what is of most interest to her, to go quickly to the page or picture that interests or excites her the most. Allow her to interrupt, to ask questions, to interject with comments. Spend time looking at the pictures. Follow your child’s train of thought. Ask questions. You can start with information seeking questions e.g. what is this? But you should move on to higher level questions e.g. why do you think she did this? How do you think she feels? What do you think she should do next? More importantly, relate the story and the pictures to the child and her life, the world around her. Compare and contrast. This is an important way in which the child becomes aware of her own self and uniqueness. You can discuss culture, values, faith in the context of stories; why something is or is not the right thing to do. For example, in a story like Red Riding Hood, you can point out how Red Riding Hood and her mother are so caring. The mother prepares a basket for the grandmother and Red brings it through the woods.

Bedtime read-alouds need to be gentler and calmer, to prepare the child for sleeping. I recommend that books are re-read at bedtime – use a book that the child is familiar with and knows very well so it comforts rather than excites. This experience is an ideal lead into the next part of the bedtime routine, which is narrating the riwayat of Awliyaullah AS and the recitation of surahs from Al Quraan, madeh and naseehat.

Children find out quickly how enjoyable and special read-aloud time is. My four-year-old granddaughter Insiyah has a read aloud routine with her Abba – bedtime read-aloud is always with her Abba and she negotiates how many books she wants to read with him, and even then, after the pile is depleted, she will negotiate for one last book. My younger one, Ruqaiyah, from the time she was 15 months old, figured out that the fastest way to get onto Dadi’s bed was to bring along a book and look appealingly at her grandma. As she toddles into our room, she picks up a book from her bookshelf – she loves books with flaps to lift, to discover what lies beneath.

Reading aloud is as beneficial to the reader as it is to the child. It is therapeutic, it is enjoyable. Immerse yourself in this special time with your child. Treasure the moment, laugh, giggle, cuddle, tickle. Children grow up quickly, but these moments spent reading beloved books with their parents (and grandparents!) will be treasured and savoured throughout their lives.


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