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September 23, 2008

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Don’t Stop Reading to Your Kids – Part 1 of 2
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Deborah Beasley

This is a wonderful concept. I believe you are never too old to be read to. All of our classic stories have descriptions of parents, friends and lovers reading to one another. I think it was once considered a skill that a well- educated person acquired, like painting or playing a musical instrument. I would encourage my older children to take turns reading to one another as well as to their younger siblings to improve their sense of presence and confidence of the spoken word. It is a pleasure that has long been replaced by electronics and becomes sadly apparent in classrooms all over the U.S.

Bob Greenman

Steve,

This is a particularly valuable Well-Read Life piece. Couldn't agree more. I found that even in high school, students enjoy being read to. I used to read all of "Our Town" and "Of Mice and Men" to sophomore English classes, as they read along silently, and they loved it. So did I. I trembled as I approached the climax of "Of Mice and Men," and I held back tears every time I read the last page of "Our Town."

Carole Terry

While on vacation this past spring, I read Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" to my seven-year-old nephew and five-year-old niece. It was a favorite book of mine as a child and I wanted to share it with them.

My worries that the book might be too old for them were rapidly forgotten. They were as enthralled with the story as I had been and their questions about the events and characters were insightful and thought-provoking. It was fascinating to hear them speculate on what would happen next, after we had finished a chapter for the night.

We are already talking about what book we will read over the Christmas break. Any suggestions?

Jan Schoenfeld

My children always see me reading. When both my children were young, I read to them all the time, and as they grew older we read together. Now that they are in their teens, they are avid readers. I believe the gift of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.

Lianne

It's funny that the piece mentions Charlotte's Web. My mother has a story from when I was about seven years old. I was just starting to pick up reading on my own, as she was reading Charlotte's Web to me. Every so often she would see me sitting with the book on my lap, and she thought I was just pretending to read.

Then, one day she found me sitting on the bottom step of the stairs sobbing, and when she asked what was wrong, I told her that Charlotte's babies had all flown away. Since we were nowhere near that point in the book, she realized that I really *was* reading.

As an adult, I am an avid reader, but the most fun I have reading is when I read with my five-year-old niece (she's a big fan of fairy tales and Robert Munsch books). As well, I volunteer through work with an organization that gets people to read one-on-one with kids in a local school who don't get a lot of stories at home (at least in English -- the class I was with last year was 95% immigrant). It is so much fun reading with grade 1-2 kids who are just starting to really get exposed to books, and using them as a kick-off for conversations (sometimes just having an adult who'll listen to whatever is running through their heads is a gift in and of itself).

Victoria

My brother and sister-in-law began reading to my nephews when they were still in the crib. But the interesting thing is that they read whatever they personally were interested in, including technical manuals as well as children's books. These boys are the most intelligent well-read young men as a result of this early "submersion" technique. What a joy - if I had children I would have done the same after seeing their results.

Cheryl

Who could ever forget Charlotte's Web? I was fortunate to have parents and teachers who read aloud to us for years. I remember the anticipation to see what would happen next. Reading aloud helps children to create the visuals of a story in their own minds without struggling to see the words. It fosters an appreciation for the story and, hopefully, creates a life-long reader and mind traveller.

Diana Raabe

The people reading this blog are [most] likely the same ones who continued to read to their children long past the age at which they could read for themselves. So we may not see much dissent here, and rightly so.

However, I would go a step further and say, "Never stop reading to your loved ones - period."

One of the best dates I ever had as an adult was being read to from an illustrated gift edition of The Hobbit.

LYNN BUCHANAN

I don't remember being read to, although my mother probably did in my preschool days. However, she had several sets of "children's classics" on shelves in the living room and my school years were spent reading all of them--the Norse sagas, English schoolboy classics, Jules Verne--much more interesting than the school books I had to read.

There is a reason I have to keep buying bookshelves from you: my library walls are getting full of shelves of books I have read and plan to read again! WWII, Flying, Mountain Climbing, modern novels----

Lynn Buchanan

Kim Allen-Niesen

I loved the years of reading to my children, the entire Narnia series, all of the Little House books, Old Yeller and The Yearling (they still haven't forgivin me for the last two). Each year as soon as we decided where we were going for vacation, I'd find fiction stories in the same locale and read to them; it helped make the vacation come alive for them. I'd also choose fiction that related to whatever they were studying in school. I realized I really missed the days of reading to my kids, when I started reading a beautiful passage in my book to my dog last week. He appreciated the attention.

shannon

A great source of information on reading aloud to children - teens is Jim Trelease's "Read Aloud Handbook" and "Read All About It!" These books give both information on the subject of reading aloud and age-appropriate read-aloud recomendations.
I still read aloud to my 13yr old and always find it interesting when my 17yr old comes and sits on the bed and listens in.

Karen

As a librarian and a parent and a grandparent, I have for a long time been delighted and surprised by how much all of us enjoy hearing a good story.

I've had teens join pre-school storytimes just for the pleasure of sharing the experience. Once, I finished a book and asked one of the teens what his favorite book had been when he was a preschooler. He ran upstairs to the library's collection area and grabbed The Story About Ping -- he knew right where it was on the shelf! I added it to that storytime and we all enjoyed it again, or for the first time. The little kids couldn't believe that a big kid wanted to share a book with them.

At home, we often (not often enough though!) share read alouds. There's nothing like sharing a great book and a big bed with a dog and the people you love! It's an incredible gift.

Thanks for the inspiring columns.

David Rendall

Thank you. This post was very helpful. My oldest daughter is just starting to read on her own and I've found that she is reading more and I am reading less.

Your suggestion about the chapter books was probably the most helpful. In fact, my wife just bought a couple chapter books for our girls. When she told me, I was able to reassure her that Steve Leveen at Levenger and other education experts thought this was a great idea.

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