Reading Out Loud Benefits All Ages


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My best friends as a child were named Laura, Anne (with an "e"), Lucy and Jo. I've introduced them to my daughter Rebecca, and they haven't aged a bit. They live in our imaginations, born as we read great books together.

Although Rebecca has been reading herself for years now, she still loves our reading ritual as we huddle in my bed, compete for covers with her sister Katie, and settle in to answer that never-ending question, "What's going to happen next?"

Experts extol reading aloud to children, directing most of their effort at parents of preschoolers. However, Jim Trelease, the foremost read-aloud specialist, says there shouldn't be a cut-off age for reading to your kids. Children of all ages benefit academically when they're read to, because it allows them to experience a wider range of books than they could handle alone and gives them constant "commercials" for the joys of reading. You're not stealing reading time from them, either; studies show that children who are read to read more on their own than children who are not.

The intellectual boost from reading out loud is not even the most exciting benefit. Quite simply, reading together brings you together. You're physically close, and kids know they're precious because you're spending time with them. Perhaps even more importantly, if you choose good books, you open doors for communication and moral teaching. Because the action in stories takes place in our imaginations, we participate in the story. We feel the characters' joy, grief, fear, even courage.

As the characters are forced to make decisions, our own moral compass grows, even if the books aren't explicitly pragmatic, or if our children can't yet put the moral into words. In The Two Towers, a despondent Frodo agonizes over whether or not their story will be worth telling. Sam reassures him, saying that whether or not children understand the moral, the story will become part of who they are. That's the beauty of stories, to give people pictures that will stay with them and change them. To capture this magic in your own home, try the following suggestions:

Make time to read

Choose a consistent time to read aloud. Many families huddle together right after dinner or for 15 minutes before bed. If children are reluctant, let them extend their bedtime if they listen to a book. Soon they'll be eager to hear what happens next!

Very young children need their own time with you reading picture books. This doesn't mean, though, that they can't be part of family reading. My 6-year-old doesn't understand all the books I read to my 9-year-old, but she likes to play in the same room, and often surprises me by recounting a story I thought she didn't hear. Give younger children special toys that come out only when the book does, so they can play as they listen. In fact, you can all try this. We often spend Sunday afternoons with Rebecca and I knitting, Katie drawing, and my husband reading to us.

Don't leave home without them

If you're tired of the "Are we there yet?" pleas from the back seat during car trips, take a book along or borrow books on CD from the library. You can also make books part of your daily life by sticking some in your bag to read while waiting at the dentist, waiting for a bus, or even while standing in line at the grocery store.

Act out stories

For my daughter's fourth birthday party, I read Where the Wild Things Are and gave the guests dress-up clothes and instruments to hold their own parade. Today my girls love making "plays," but unfortunately these often lack something vital called "plots." But when they choose a scene from a book, that problem disappears. Encourage your children to act out their favorite stories. Invite family members to watch, and tape them for posterity.

Make models of scenes

After 7-year-old Danika's parents finished reading Little House in the Big Woods to her, she decided to build a log cabin. Her grandfather helped her cut logs to make a miniature house, complete with a stone fireplace, which bore a remarkable resemblance to the book's illustration. You can do the same with a covered wagon, the boat from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or the makeshift home of the Swiss Family Robinson. Hands-on activities help children remember the stories.

Discuss stories together

A book may present you with important moral dilemmas to explore with your children. Would you have had Corrie ten Boom's courage to hide Jews during World War II? Do you have the optimism Anne had, even as an orphan? Patricia St. John's Treasures of the Snow or Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings provide similar opportunities, as can Barbara Robinson's hilarious The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Books allow children to ask these questions before they encounter similar things in life. Even if children can't put the deepest emotions they feel from a book into words, the characters they love can change them — and you — from the inside out! What a wonderful family adventure, available for the price of a library card.

Sheila Wray Gregoire frequently writes about parenting issues and is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother.

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December 2019

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Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

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Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Telephone: 919-676-6368
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Cost: $3/person

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Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
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Wake Forest, NC  27587
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The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
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Cost: $10-$60/person

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Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
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White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: $3/person

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Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Cost: Free

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State Farmers Market
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Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: Free

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North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


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Cost: Free

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
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Cost: $18 per child per workshop

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1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
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Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
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Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

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Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

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Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

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

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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