I must be in the right line of work, because I am convinced reading is the single most important skill we can pass down to future generations. This skill can be nurtured simply by reading aloud to children.

Hearing stories read aloud exposes children to new vocabulary and new ideas. They become better listeners with a longer attention spans, and increased memory. They learn the patterns of language, the cadence of speech, and the patterns of the written word. The National Read Aloud campaign encourages reading for 15 minutes a day. If a child is read to for 15 minutes every day for five years, that equals 456 hours of time. This gives the child a huge boost in the areas of literacy and language development, which transfers to all areas of academic and personal development.

This puts children ahead when starting school.

According to the Read Aloud website, studies found that children not reading at grade level by the end of first grade, have an 88 percent risk of missing the reading grade level by the end of fourth grade. This begins to affect not just Reading Class – but all subjects – reading comprehension occurs in Social Studies, Science and even Math with word problems. Children with low reading proficiency rates are four times more likely to leave school before graduation, which translates to fewer employment prospects and lower earnings levels.

Plus, reading aloud fosters a lifelong love of reading. It is enjoyable to share an interesting book, both for the reader and the listener. According to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, “the last 25 years of research confirms this simple formula – regardless of sex, race, nationality, or socioeconomic background – that students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don’t read much, cannot get better at all.”

Reading aloud is, according to the 1985 report Becoming a Nation of Readers, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.” Reading aloud is important because, as Trelease explains, “one of the early and primary abilities of children is imitation. Each time you read aloud to a child, you offer yourself as a role model.”

Reading aloud is important for older children as well as younger ones. Children are exposed to new situations through books, encouraging imagination as well as compassion for others. They grow into adults that are more engaged citizens. Plus, according to Trelease, a child’s listening level is above their reading level until about the eighth grade, “you have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it.”

The good news is that the libraries have thousands of books available to borrow, for free. You and your child have a never-ending supply of new material to try out. Tired of reading the same book? Pocahontas County Libraries has it covered.

“Creating a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months writes Louis Harris in, An Assessment of the Impact of First Book’s Northeast Program.

Additionally, all the libraries offer a weekly structured story-time, with books read aloud, an activity related to the story and a chance to pick out a book, or two, to check-out and take home. Believe in the value of reading aloud, but need a child to read to? Contact your local librarian to help out with this weekly story time.

Happy Reading!