For almost a year now I’ve been listening to Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival podcast. Unsurprisingly, the focus on her podcast is about reading aloud to your children. She has insights and tips, as well as interviews with a variety of authors. Although reading to the girls comes fairly naturally to my husband and me, it’s inspired me to think about reading aloud as something we’ll do for the rest of our lives rather than just while the girls are little.
So when Sarah (she’s so perky and lovable on her podcast that I feel like we’re on a first-name basis) announced that she was releasing a book entitled The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids, I actually preordered it. Long story short: It was money well spent.
We all know that reading to our babies, toddlers, and young children is important. Even doctors remind us to read to them at well-child checks. But how important is it really? And why is it important? And do we really need to keep reading to children once they are able to read to themselves? Sarah tackles these questions in her book. She states,
Reading aloud with our kids is indeed the best use of our time and energy as parents. It’s more important than just about anything else we can do (28).
Throughout her book, she lauds the power of story to build our children’s character and expose them to the world around them. Likewise, she discusses how stories can create a bond between family members, creating references for inside jokes and experiences.
Additionally, Sarah advocates that reading aloud isn’t just so we can eventually teach our children how to read. Instead,
Even more important than teaching our kids the actual skill of reading is to cultivate a deep love of stories. After all, a child must love reading if he is to do it of his own volition throughout his life (70).
Her belief is that if you create a love a stories in children, a child will eventually learn how to read. That means that the struggling reader should be read to just as much–if not more–as a child who is reading at an “average” level.
The first part of the book emphasizes that reading aloud is important and that our duty as parents is to instill the love of reading into our children. Thankfully, Sarah doesn’t just beat us over the head with this goal without providing guidance on how to achieve it. The second half of the book gives tips and strategies on how to make read-aloud time meaningful. Likewise, she includes read-aloud book recommendations for all ages, even teenagers.
Many of her tips are very practical and she encourages us to make our goals small, because even small goals can bring about the love of reading. For example, she starts our read-aloud goal to be just 10 minutes a day because,
If I read for ten minutes every day, I’ll have read with my kids for sixty hours over the course of a year (109-110).
10 minutes seems too small to be a “real” goal, but sixty hours sure is an impressive amount of time. She goes on to explain that even if we read to our kids for 10 minutes every other day, that’s still 30 hours of read-aloud time. Sometimes it just takes someone to do the math to see how these small goals can make a big difference. Some of her additional insights include:
- How to create a book club culture at home
- What read aloud time will actually look like (and it’s not your children sitting quietly at your feet while you read).
- How to choose books for your kids
- How to ask questions that will create a bookish conversation with your kids
- Why audiobooks count as reading
After reading The Read-Aloud Family, I feel more motivated than ever to read to Babykins and Sweet Pea. Heck, I feel more motivated to read for my own personal pleasure! And now I have a book to back my belief that reading is more than just a skill, it’s a way of life.