For Your Imagination

Reading aloud

Until what age do you think you will read aloud to your child? Do you read aloud to your teenagers? Do you read aloud to your partner? Does anyone read aloud to you?

When I started testing the concept for StoryLabs by organizing my first storytelling sessions for young children, an adult friend mentioned that it was so nice to just sit back and listen to someone read to you. It stuck with me. 

Reading aloud to children who cannot yet read is an intuitive thing. I intensely enjoy the moments where my child and I snuggle up on the couch with a pile of books. But the other day I found myself telling my husband – my heart full of sadness – that I could feel time ticking away and that, soon, our child, who is already beginning to sound out words, will no longer come up to me with that longing look in his eyes saying, “Mama, read to me.” 

So a slightly wounded part of me sighed with relief with a study that came out of the UK around World Book Day this year saying that 

it is important we continue reading aloud to our children well into their teens.

Photo credit: Kontrec, iStock/Getty Images Plus

The study establishes a correlation between children read to daily and children that read on their own, saying that 74% of 8 – 13 year olds read to daily also read independently with positive consequences on mental health and academic performance.

Sadly though, most parents stop reading to their child by the age of 8 with boys being less likely to be read to day in, day out than girls – surprisingly!

I, for one, am happy with the invitation to read on.

But, going back to my mother-in-arms friend, what about reading aloud to adults? You can find poetry sessions and group readings announced if you know where to look, but casual public reading to adults are far from pervasive. 

I recently called my older brother who happened to be driving back from Luxembourg to Switzerland alone. You must be bored, I said. No, he answered. He had downloaded an audiobook (of a book I had given him, incidentally) and was listening to it. When an opportunity arose soon after for me to take a long solo road trip myself, I thought I’d test this out – after all, a big hunk of time alone like that is a really big gift. I spent 6 hours driving up and down the Portuguese coast listening to the familiar voice of Michelle Obama as she read Becomingto me. Yes, it did feel like she was reading to me, to the point I found myself making reading recommendations to her based on her anecdotes. (“Michelle, that story about your father reminds me of Nadine Gordimer’s short story “The Pet”. You should check it out.”) I don’t know if it was her confident, familiar voice that I tend to associate with poise and substance or the warm spring day in the Portuguese Alentejo bursting with aromatic greenery, as it sped past my car window, but my experience of being read to aloud by Michelle Obama was a delight – I can confirm it. 

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Photo credit: Kontrec, iStock/Getty Images Plus

Maybe, just maybe, I can aim higher than continuing to read to my child as his height quickly catches up to my own. Maybe, I’ll have the pleasure of him reading to me somewhere in the distant future as he towers over his small mama and she says, “Son, read to me.”

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