Do you ever wonder when should you stop reading to your child?
You wanted your little one to love books and have read them countless stories from a small age. But now that they can read for themselves, should you step aside?
What’s the best age for doing so? And what benefits will your child miss if you stop sooner?
Just because your kiddo can read doesn’t mean you should stop reading to them.
Nowadays, parents remove themselves from the equation too soon, but the ideal age for doing so will surprise you.
And if you stop today, when your child is still small, they’ll miss a lot of benefits, mainly because their listening skills are far more advanced than their reading skills.
Most adults don’t consider the following reasons for reading to a child who can read by themselves. Do you want to be like those adults?
Just Because One Can Read Doesn’t Mean They Enjoy It
There’s a lot more to reading than seeing a word on the page and saying it out loud.
Written words are a code the child must learn to decipher on multiple levels. Yet at first, all they can do is say it out loud.
Later, with proper vocabulary knowledge, they start to understand the words they read, make sense of a sentence as a whole, and maybe even resonate with the idea behind it.
If you stop reading to your child too soon, they may not get to fall in love with reading. Even though they enjoy stories, when the effort of reading is too big, they give up.
If you keep reading, you remove their frustration and let them enjoy the listening. They’ll have better chances of developing a stronger, long-lasting love for books.
Plus, you get to model fluent reading for them, expand their vocabulary, and teach them how to pronounce certain words.
Kids Are Better Listeners Than Readers
They practice listening from the moment they’re born.
Consequently, at small ages, they’re more capable of taking cues and information by listening than they are by reading.
In the early stages of learning how to read, while their listening skills surpass their reading skills, children focus on the mechanical process of reading.
They put so much energy into deciphering the visual symbols that you can’t expect them to make much sense of the ideas behind those graphic symbols.
So, if you let young children read alone, they’ll limit themselves to simpler stories — the ones that fit their reading level — and not understand too much from them either.
If you sit with them and do the reading yourself, you’ll help them understand more from the story. Not just by explaining certain terms to them, but also by your intonation, reading rhythm, and the pauses you can make to let certain ideas sink in.
Sticking to Reading Levels Ignores Their Listening Potential
American educator and million-copy bestseller Jim Trelease claims a fourth grader can easily comprehend stories aimed at seventh or eighth graders if the topic interests them.
Of course, only an adult could read those stories to them.
In his The Read-Aloud Handbook, Trelease strongly advises parents to consider their children’s listening level:
“Children can listen on a higher language level than they can read, so reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible and exposes children to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of everyday speech.”
When I went on a splurge and bought my three-year-old 30 books (many of which were up to 80% discounted), I was surprised to discover that some of his favorites were rated as +5.
He loved them because he was interested in the topic, he identified himself with the pictures, and understood most of the language.
Why can’t a three-year-old enjoy books aimed at kids over five, with their parents by their side? The topic was emotional intelligence — books about feelings and the idea of knowing when you’ve had enough of something, with illustrations of children who can’t have enough of watching cartoons or eating french fries or… getting hugs.
Reading those books together made sense because I was there to fill in all the gaps for him, explain certain details and help him make connections between the books and his life.
When We Read to Children, We Control What They Are Exposed To
A child who struggles with reading will more likely skip boring or complicated sentences.
And what’s boring or complicated for a child?
Precisely the sophisticated parts, the elongated phrases, detailed descriptions, figures of speech, and factual details that add deeper layers to a story and force them to think even more.
Reading to your child allows experimenting with different, broader genres and going through passages that the child needs support with.
You don’t just model listening and teach the correct pronunciation of new words, but also stop and take time to explain those new words.
Your kiddo probably wouldn’t do it by themselves. Who stops in the middle of the story to look up a word in the dictionary? Not a middle-grader, in any case.
Listening and reading levels become even around the age of 13 or 14.
That would be a time when you can confidently let them read mostly by themselves.
Yet parents stop reading to their children by the time they’re eight years old. Just 32% of them still read daily to children under 13 years old. (Source)
We stop too soon.
Don’t take away the immense benefits of reading stories together. And don’t assume that if you still read to them they can’t also do it themselves.
Encourage both because reading is life-changing. But like any habit, it takes regular repetition before it establishes.
And unlike other habits, it takes quiet time, something we have in very short supply these days.
That’s why consciously making time for reading with your children while keeping interruptions to a minimum is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a parent.
If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to know: how old are your children, and do you still read to them?
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|Escape the Act Like a Man Box||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men||Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race||The First Myth of the Patriarchy: The Acorn on the Pillow|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Shutterstock