We often hear this question when our children are young. But when is the last time you read aloud to someone?
Well, that’s too long! March 4, 2015, is World Read Aloud Day.
When I was in grade school, our teacher had us to lay our heads on our desks and listen as she read a story aloud to us. We were learning to read ourselves, but only in early primers like the Dick and Jane, Sally and Spot books that used repetition to instill the words in our minds. So when the teacher read us a real story, a chapter per day, it was a delight.
I have ALWAYS loved reading. And I believe that’s the result of hearing my teachers read, as well as seeing my parents read. We didn’t have a TV until I was almost 10, so we read or listened to the radio, which may be why I so enjoyed hearing the teacher read. I remember having lots of books and magazines in our home and seeing my parents read. They raised 14 children, so they worked hard and were very busy. Still, both my Dad and Mother read every evening.
In my humble opinion, those who don’t read are missing one of the most important and enjoyable activities of life. What’s more, they may be depriving their children of a most useful tool for success in the future.
If the saying, “You are what you eat” is true of the physical body, then “You are what you read” should be said of the mind and heart. The things we take into our hearts and minds eventually come out in the form of words and actions. Our thoughts determine the course of our lives. I’ve heard it explained this way:
Sew a thought, and reap an action.
Sew an action, and reap a habit.
Sew a habit, and reap a lifestyle.
Sew a lifestyle, and reap a destiny.
When we read a good book, we are changed. Oh, we may forget most of the story details, but not the underlying truths and principles. It is very likely that everything we read leaves an impression upon our brain and our soul. We are changed without even being aware of it. We become happier, stronger, freer, better informed, more challenged, more tolerant, more enlightened, more curious, more innovative, more dependable, more grateful, or more determined. Conversely, if we read negative things, we fill our minds with thoughts that are detrimental to us. So it is important to find and read good books.
If you have young children, you must not miss the opportunity to instill in them a love of reading, a gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime. The very best way to do this is to read aloud to them. Begin reading stories with colorful pictures that catch the eye and capture the imagination.
Another way to instill that love of reading is to make sure they learn how to read well. If they struggle reading the books on their grade level, ask your local librarian or the school for help and/or tutoring. I am partial to the phonics method of learning to read, but whatever works best for your child is what’s important.
Make sure you always provide reading materials appropriate for the child’s age. Even very young babies love to hear you read as they see pictures and grasp the meaning of words. And it’s not just entertainment, it is also a bonding experience. In addition, hearing you read aloud produces synapses (connections in the brain) which give them the capacity to develop a larger vocabulary and better language skills. Child development specialists have determined that the environment of a child’s earliest years have lasting effects that span a lifetime.
The good news is that every social and economic class in America has access to excellent reading materials through our public libraries. Reading gives us all the opportunity to fill our minds with wonderful ideas and exciting vicarious adventures. Once a child learns and becomes comfortable reading, you won’t have to encourage him. He or she will want to read.
But reading aloud isn’t just for kids. In our ever-changing world, we can and should be lifelong learners. When our children were old enough to read on their own, we still read to them from the Bible, from Emily Post’s books of etiquette, and other types of informational books. I often read aloud to my husband today as we travel in the car. It not only allows him to fill boring hours while driving, but it gives us an opportunity to share information or enjoy a story together.
Don’t sit idle and let the world pass you by. Indulge your dreams by reading great works by gifted writers whose gift to the world is yours for the taking. And, if you have the opportunity to read aloud to a grandchild, an aging parent, or someone who lives alone, so much the better.