When you read aloud to your child, you know it has an impact on their life. Moreover, you know that it’s a positive experience. However, what actually happens in their brain?
Thanks to MRI scans, we have a better idea of what this impact looks like. According to research from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, when we read aloud to our children more often, it sets them up for literacy success. As we read aloud to a child, it changes the structure of the brain.
Additionally, it has an impact on how their brains form connections. That quite literally shapes their brains to be better readers. As a classical school, we have Reading to the Children in our curriculum, largely based on the My Book House series.
Literacy and Aural Learning
Dr. John Hutton is the Director of the Reading Literacy Discovery Center. According to his research, when people read to preschoolers on a consistent basis, they develop stronger pre-reading skills.
Pre-reading skills range from recognizing rhymes to hearing phonograms. Additionally, they tend to develop larger vocabularies. They also start to build their imaginations and visualize as they listen to stories.
Lastly, they develop better visual reading skills. This means they begin to recognize letters and words faster.
The Impact of the Medium
When you read aloud to your child, the method matters, too. Oftentimes, this is just as important as the reading itself. For example, what happens when kids listen to an audiobook?
Researchers found that audiobooks tended to strain the language network of the children. This is because the content was too often above-level without the aid of pictures. When you read a picture book to your child, they begin to form connections between the words and the images.
Alternatively, fully animated stories would consume the child’s visual networks. Unfortunately, this also suppressed several other networks in their brains: attention, imagination, and language.
Luckily, books with illustrations hit the “sweet spot” of development. How? The combinations of level-appropriate words and images stimulated an optimal balance. Between the attention, imagination, language, and visual networks, there was a much stronger balance.
When you read aloud with your child, there are still more ways to enhance the process. Oftentimes, it benefits the child when reading becomes more interactive. If the process is more engaging, it furthers their comprehension and literacy skills.
According to Dr. Hutton, the dialogic method of reading moves it from passive listening and makes it an interactive exercise. As you read aloud, you have the opportunity to build a dialogue between yourself and your child.
When this happens, the book is simply the catalyst for a conversation.
When you use the dialogic method of reading, think of it with the acronym CROWD.
- Completion. Let your child complete some of the sentences as you read.
- Recall. When you read aloud, stop occasionally and ask whether your child remembers what happened earlier.
- Open-ended questions. Ask their thoughts on what happened in the story. “Why was June laughing?”
- Wh questions. Who, what, when, where, and why are always important.
- Distancing. Separate the events of the story and connect them to real life.
According to Dr. Hutton and his research, there’s a lot of value in genuine conversation. Instead of reading through the story quickly, make it a conversation. Take your time and have some fun as you read with your kid.
With the CROWD prompts, you have a great foundation for a conversation. After some time, your kid might have some questions of their own!
When You Read Aloud to Your Kid, You Make It Fun and Engaging
As you can see, there’s a lot of value to reading aloud to your child. However, it’s also important to read and engage them. Make sure they understand what’s happening. In due time, you see the benefits for yourself!
Throughout our curriculum, we place great importance on literacy. Over time, we strive to instill a love of reading and learning in our students. When you read aloud to your child, you take steps towards the same goal.