6 Reasons to Keep Reading Aloud to Older Children


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Most parents understand the importance of reading aloud to young children. We recite poetry to our pregnant bellies so our infants will be born recognizing our voices and the sound of our language. We read board books to our babies and Dr. Seuss stories to our 2-year-olds because it helps with language development and encourages our 4- and 5-year-olds to start reading on their own.

We read lying next to them in bed, or they sit on our laps or beside us, their body snuggled into ours. Their minds are open and impressionable; their bodies secure and relaxed. Unconsciously, while they are enjoying the story and sound of your voice, they are learning to love learning.

At what point do we stop reading to our children at bedtime? As soon as they can read on their own, perhaps? The first time they say they would rather read the book themselves than listen to you read it? Or maybe it’s when they have homework to finish or a friend to call, or they need to take a shower. But maybe you shouldn’t stop. There are significant reasons why parents should continue to read to older in addition to younger children.

1. Reading aloud is good advertising. Read-aloud proponent Jim Trelease, author of “The Read-Aloud Handbook,” describes reading to a child as “a commercial for reading pleasures.” He advises parents not to “cut [their] reading advertising budget as children grow older.” He points out that children tend to read less as they get older for a variety of reasons: access to electronics and mobile devices, homework, sports, friends and school activities, for example. Also, for some, books become linked with work rather than pleasure.

Remind kids how fun books can be by sharing a page-turner like “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman or “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead. Make it clear that you are paying attention and enjoying it, and read with expression.

“I use a lot of inflection and variation in my voice,” says Amy Godfrey, a children’s librarian and manager of children’s services at Southwest Regional Library in Durham. “Maybe not the super dramatic tones I use for little kids, but I definitely give it energy.”

You could read the whole book or, as longtime librarian at Durham’s Forest View Elementary School Kathleen Graves suggests, read the first chapter — “just a teaser … to get them interested and excited about reading.”

2. Reading aloud teaches above-level concepts and language. By familiarizing children with writing styles they might not choose on their own, you are challenging their brains to accept more complex sentence structures and advanced vocabulary. A book such as “The Giver” by Lois Lowry contains complex vocabulary and presents thought-provoking issues, such as the value of diversity. While a plot-hungry child or advanced reader might gloss over these words and themes, parents can hone in on them.

“One of the chief values of reading aloud is that you can stop and do a little coaching,” says UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Emeritus of Literacy Studies James Cunningham, who is also a member of the “Reading Hall of Fame,” which was established in 1973 with a mission to further improve reading instruction.

Coaching can be particularly valuable to middle grade students who are at the cusp of reading proficiently and identifying figurative language and themes.

“Kids need a framework to be able to apply these advanced concepts themselves,” Graves says. Reading aloud allows parents to help children build this framework so they can read more deeply on their own.

3. Reading aloud exposes children to classics. What 9-year-old boy is going to pick up “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne rather than “Captain Underpants” by Dave Pilkey? What 12-year-old girl is going to read “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White rather than “Pretty Little Liars” by Sara Shepard?

“They won’t do it on their own,” Graves says. “It’s tricky for them to pick up the rhythm of the language in a Dickens or an Austen book. If it’s oral, they can catch the antecedents and get a better sense of the story as a whole.”

Once they’ve listened to “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte or “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson, it’s easier for them to read and understand a similar book on their own, like “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Reading aloud is also an ideal way to interest a child in poetry or drama, both of which lend themselves to the give-and-take of oral form.

4. Reading aloud eases discussion of tricky issues. When you are reading aloud to your child, you have the opportunity to discuss not only the story’s vocabulary, but the subject matter as well. It can be easier to start talking about friend or family issues, puberty, bullies, alcohol or drugs when these issues pertain to a fictional character rather than your own child. Once you’ve read “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, you may be able to more comfortably discuss terminal sickness, young relationships and sex.

Sometimes listening to the topic can put a different slant on it. For example, Graves says she read Sue Stauffacher’s “Donuthead,” a sensitive book about bullying, to one of her classes and had the kids rolling with laughter.

“A book might not be funny reading it to yourself, but when an adult reads it, with the right inflections, it can be hilarious,” she says.

5. Reading aloud helps parents and children maintain closeness. Whether it is 5 minutes or 30, the time you spend reading with your older children assures them that they are important to you. Whether you do it lying beside them in bed or sitting together on the couch, reading aloud evokes a physical connection, which is not easy to establish when children are younger. A book also provides a neutral ground that allows the day’s minor disagreements to be forgotten. Books create shared experiences (like that swarm of locusts from “On the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder) that can become cherished inside jokes. (“Moomintrolls” anyone?)

6. Reading aloud slows you down. Finally, after a day of constant Instagramming, Tweeting, texting and skimming through online information, a few minutes of reading aloud enables you and your child to focus on a single story and to relax. It’s impossible to speed-read out loud, and slow-paced reading has been touted as improving concentration, reducing stress and deepening one’s ability to think, listen and empathize, according to Jeanne Whalen, author of “Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress.”

Choosing a Book

How do you choose a title you will both enjoy? Here are some suggestions.

Pure Fun

“Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang” by Ian Fleming

“King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard (called “The Most Amazing Book Ever Written” when it was first published in 1885)

Language Development

“The Giver” or “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry

“The Bronze Bow” or “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare

Not Quite Reality

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Five Children and It” by E. Nesbit

Coming of Age

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

Pushing the Limits

Challenge your child by reading a Shakespearean play such as “Romeo and Juliet” or “The Tempest.”

Find more suggestions at bankstreet.edu/center-childrens-literature/childrens-book-committee/further-resources/read-alouds-for-older-children, or at the American Library Association site at ala.org/alsc, which lists award-winning books from 1922 to the present time.

Caitlin Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Durham

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Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.