When dads read aloud it not only helps promote reading skills. It also benefits all the other language skills for the child:
- Children's listening skills improve via the practice they receive while listening to us read aloud.
- The listening that children do also helps pronunciation, because they hear the words pronounced and see the link between the letters (or characters) on the page and the way the word is pronounced. Pronunciation is learned in large part by repeatedly hearing a word. Reading aloud provides multiple opportunities to hear the same word pronounced.
- Dads reading aloud helps their kids learn the alphabet and phonics in context, rather than studying individual letters and sounds in a workbook. This contextualized way of learning is a more natural, more enjoyable approach, because children learn as part of reading not as a separate activity. It is the same for learning characters in a language such as Chinese.
- The main way that we learn to spell comes not by repeating spelling lists or learning spelling rules that are full of exceptions. The main way we learn to spell comes from visual memory. We see a word we have written and say to ourselves, “That doesn’t look right.” Then, we try writing the word a few different ways until it looks right. Children develop this visual memory by seeing the word many times in the books that dads read to them.
- It is much better to learn vocabulary by hearing a book read aloud than by studying a word list. In a book, the rest of the book provides a context that helps children figure out the meaning of words they do not know. This contextualized learning deepens children’s understanding of words they are learning, and they learn which words go together. The illustrations in some books also aid vocabulary learning. Plus, when dads read aloud to children, they are always there to assist them in figuring out what a word means.
- Reading skills and writing skills go together. Research shows that children who read well usually write well and vice versa. By building children’s reading skills, we are also helping their writing skills. Indeed, exposure to books helps improve children’s writing. Adults who write well were probably read to as children.
- Grammar is yet another element of language where exposure is key. Just as we use our visual memory to decide if a word is spelled correctly, we use our aural (hearing) memory to help us decide if a sentence is grammatical. Even if the sentence is written, we say it aloud to ourselves. When the sentence, “just doesn’t sound right,” we know that something may be wrong with the grammar. When dads and moms read aloud is a great way to provide children with a bank of correct sentences to use to check the grammar of sentences that they create themselves.
Finally, when dads read aloud, they draw children into discussions of what they are hearing. In this way, they not only receive language by listening to us and looking at the book, they also produce language when they converse with us. This language production helps them consolidate all the pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar knowledge they have learned while dads are reading to them. So dads, what are you waiting for?
Dad reminder: You can start to read to your kids at ANY age. It's fun for the kids and dad. It really is a dad duty!
- George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D.
Dr. George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Dr. Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D. are the authors of many books (including "The Read Aloud Guide", textbooks for teachers and students, curriculum guides, and children's storybooks).
Find out more about reading aloud to your kids.