Nearly every night my daughter and I snuggle up in bed—or sometimes on a couch–and read together. Some days she chooses simple books from when she was younger and other days we embark upon the days- or weeks-long journey of a longer novel.
As a third-grader, my daughter is a fairly independent reader who often reads on her own, either before or after our reading time. So why do I persist in reading aloud to her each night for up to an hour?
1. I love it. As newspapers and websites scream about how busy we all are, I believe it is important to show my daughter that time to relax and spend time together is more important than my to-do list.
2. It is an opportunity to get to know her in new ways. The questions she asks about the books or the things she chooses to comment about let me know what is important in her world these days. Often, during or after our reading, she opens up about things that have been bothering her.
3. We can explore interests together. Our early forays into Little House on the Prairie books have led to a longstanding interest in previous historical periods and thereby to lots of additional historical fiction and, eventually, museum trips. Sharing an interest and learning together will, I hope, set the foundation for lifelong learning.
4. It exposes her to new ideas. Reading aloud together also gives me a chance to expose my daughter not only to different times and places but to new ideas and ways of thinking. Many are the mornings when our breakfast table conversation revolves around something that happened in a book we are reading that she wants to talk about. Why someone behaved as they did, how a situation might have been handled better—all of these are real-life issues we can discuss without judgment because they are about fictional characters.
5. It improves her thinking and writing. I can read books to her that are above her own reading level. This not only increases her vocabulary, it also exposes her to more sophisticated syntax in writing. All this will eventually creep into her own thinking and writing. My experiences teaching English at Morgan Park Academy certainly show me that frequent readers tend to be better writers and even better thinkers. It also prepares her to read these more complex books—on her own or in future classes.
Of course, most of all, I hope that, like me, she will become a lifetime reader who never goes anywhere without a book nearby!
By Claire Concannon
Ms. Concannon teaches Upper School English.