What if we did not read to children before they went to elementary school? Is it too late to start? No, it is never too late to start, even if the children are in secondary school. It may be more difficult to get started with older children, but the experience is just as rewarding for them and for us. Dads should start slowly and pay careful attention to finding material that matches the children’s interests.
Remember that reading aloud is a kind of advertisement. When dads read aloud to older children they expose them to new worlds and new types of reading material. We offer them reminders of the joy of reading or help them discover this joy for the first time. Throughout our lives, we can all use reminders of good habits we should continue to practice.
As children grow older, a generation gap can emerge leaving adults and children with very little in common. Reading aloud offers one way to bridge that gap. And, because older children are already reading, the reading aloud can go in both directions with them reading to us as well. Indeed, one form of service project that older children can do is to read aloud on visits to homes for the elderly.
Reading aloud ties in naturally with children and dads discussing what they are reading. For instance, perhaps we come across an interesting article in a newspaper or something surprising in a book. We announce to the children and adults who happen to be within hearing distance, “This is interesting.” Then, we read aloud for a bit. Afterwards, the floor is open for anyone to comment on what we have just read.
For instance, in the early 1990s, George was teaching secondary school in Honolulu. One morning, the front-page headline on the newspaper was that the famous basketball player, Magic Johnson, had been diagnosed with HIV. This was a shock for the class. George put aside the lesson he had prepared for the day and read aloud newspaper articles on the topic, as the class sat in rapt attention. Afterwards, students wanted to discuss what they had heard, giving George a chance to do a bit of AIDS education.
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.