“My child hates to read.”
“How do I get my kid to read at home?”
“We don’t have time!”
At almost every single parent-teacher conference that I’ve attended, parents have expressed the same concern. They want their child to pick up more books and become a better reader, but they aren’t sure how to best help them. The simple answer? Read to them!
Oftentimes it can feel much more complicated and overwhelming that it needs to be. As teachers, it’s our job to take the guesswork out of reading for parents. Here are ten myths that get in the way of families reading aloud with their children at home.
1. My child must read by themselves.
Many parents believe that once a child can read independently, that is the only way they should read. Reading alone and reading aloud are not mutually exclusive. We can do both with our children – and we should! Children of all ages (yes, even teenagers!) can benefit greatly from hearing an adult read aloud them. Research shows that the decline of students’ recreational reading coincides with the decline in amount of time that adults read to them.
2. Books should be read only one time.
In the primary grades, repeated picture book reading of the same book (at least 3x) increases vocabulary acquisition and the learning is more permanent. Each time a child revisits a book, they’ll garner even more from the story. Younger children actually need repeated readings of the same book in order to learn (similar to the way we need multiple interactions to learn all the names of our students at the beginning of the school year).
3. Picture books are only for little kids.
Picture books are a great way for talking about the hard topics with older kids. It provides a medium ground that helps them feel safe about expressing their thoughts. Picture books are much shorter than novels, which makes it easier to have an in-depth discussion in one sitting (as opposed to waiting until the end of a novel).
Picture books also allow you to cover a lot of ground in learning about a new topic with older kids. It’s a great way to pull in more information on social studies and science topics.
Check out the hashtag #classroombookaday on Instagram and Twitter to see more examples of picture books being used in upper elementary, middle and even high school classrooms.
4. Reading only counts if it is an actual book.
Reading is everywhere! Children should be exposed to a variety of texts, including newspapers, magazines, menus, etc. Encourage parents to create a print climate in their homes that allow children to have access to a multitude of reading material. It’s crucial that reading extends beyond just picture or chapter books – recipes, directions, blogs, comic books – there are so many options! This will expand not only their reading diet, but open their world to so many other interests, as well.
5. My child should only be reading books on his or her “level.”
Book levels were created to be used as a teacher tool, not to label and restrict a child’s reading habits (see more here). Children should be choosing books that interest them. A book that may seem to hard might just be an opportunity for a child to stretch his or her mind.
When it comes to reading aloud, a child can comprehend on a higher level than they can read. They can listen to stories with more complex vocabulary than they are capable of reading on their own.
6. Audiobooks don’t count as real reading.
Of course they do! Audiobooks expose students to sophisticated and correct language. It allows them to hear a story being read fluently. Audiobooks can be very powerful. Children can listen to an audiobook with an adult and share powerful discussions as a result.
Audiobooks are great tool for busy families. They can be listened to while driving to soccer practice or ballet or the grocery store. They are a perfect solution for a tired parent. Audiobooks allow parents to share a story with their child, without having to read aloud (and possibly fall asleep while doing so).
7. Reading is only done at school.
While children do a lot of reading inside the classroom, far more time is spent at home. Children fall in love with books at home. When a parent reads aloud with their child, they are sharing an experience and they are bonding. Reading aloud with a child conveys the message that books are not just something to get through, but that they are to be enjoyed.
8. My child should only read books that are assigned.
“Kids whose parents believe that reading is first and foremost a mode of entertainment and enjoyment end up being more voracious readers than those who want their kids to read so they can succeed in school.” ~ Sarah Mackenzie, The Read Aloud Family
The home should be a place where children should have the freedom to explore books that interest them. Books that hold a child’s attention will garner longer learning benefits. By letting them choose their own books, we are cultivating a natural curiosity within the child.
9. I have to read aloud for a long time.
Life at home gets busy. Real busy. Finding time to fit in a half hour of reading every day seems nearly impossible! Parents feel overwhelmed by trying to add one more thing (even if it might be one of the most important things) to their full schedule. This is when reading gets put on the back burner and even forgotten about. It becomes a chore.
It’s okay to read for just 10 minutes here or 5 minutes there. There’s no law that says a chapter must be finished by the end of the allotted reading time. Those 10 minutes are better than none at all.
10. Children need to sit still while listening to a book read aloud.
Giving children something to do with their hands (draw, build with blocks, play-doh) may actually help them listen better! Dr. Michael Gurian, a renowned family counselor, states that for some kids, information can penetrate deeper into their brains when they are physically moving around. And, by restricting a child by making them sit still, we are turning him off from reading.