Reading aloud, reading together

Reading aloud, reading together
EU Read 2013
Many European families do not read aloud to their children – especially before their children
can themselves read. Nevertheless, international research shows that reading regularly to
children is an effort worth making.
Sharing stories is not only enjoyable, it also broadens a child's world view and stimulates
empathy. Reading books together helps the emotional and linguistic development of children.
Reading to children builds skills that lead to more success at school in various subjects
(Stiftung Lesen, Study on Reading Aloud, 2011), and there are long-lasting positive effects
that can still be seen in young adults.
Linguistic and literary competence
Reading books together with children stimulates their early literacy on many levels.
Children learn how to distinguish letters and notice the differences between written and
spoken language. Listening to stories benefits not only their written language skills, but also
increases their phonological awareness and advances their oral language development.
Children who are read to are more likely to have a broader vocabulary that will help give
them a successful start at primary school (Mol, 2010).
Reading together doesn’t just develop a child’s linguistic skills. They will also learn how to
identify the structure of sentences and stories, allowing them to develop a firmer grasp of
storytelling. Children will also be able to build up the skills they will need to read
independently (Duursma, 2012). Reading together with children develops book-related
knowledge (such as recognising fictitious characters and irony) and stimulates the interest in
and enjoyment of books (Van der Pol, 2010).
Literary enjoyment, self confidence and empathy
As well helping them develop reading skills, sharing stories with children helps to build their
self confidence. It stimulates their social and emotional development as well as their
knowledge of the world (Kwant, 2011). Reading together also strengthens the bond between
adult and child.
Children who are read to when they are young start collecting reading experiences that can
lead to insight, reflection and empathy. In short, they contribute to the moral shaping of a
reader. Research shows that children who read regularly know more about life, love, courage
and conflict. Moreover, they are better at self-reflection than children who rarely read (Van
Peperstraten, 2011).
For children to develop in this way, they need to open up to the experience, and be truly
affected by what they read. The English literary scholar and psychologist David Harding
compares the most valuable reading experience to passionate spectator experiences; merely
watching is not good enough – a child should be genuinely touched by what they read.
Achieving such experience demands practice.
An early start
The earlier a child interacts with stories and books, the better. They can build up a routine in
storytelling and playing with books so that it becomes a habit, which paves the way for future
reading for pleasure.
Children’s linguistic development also depends on the world and people around them.
The language used by parents and professionals such as teachers shapes a child’s own
language development. When families read together, a child’s language matures as they
focus on the meaning of words.
Reading together and telling stories is just as important as a child gets older. It opens the
way to books and stories that children cannot yet read on their own, or to stories they are
unlikely to choose themselves. Being read to presents opportunities for a child to get in touch
with demanding texts and unfamiliar worlds. This stimulates learning and encourages
children to keep on reading independently and voluntarily.