What is the single most effective step you can take in teaching?

One of the most effective steps in education is to read to your children.  Study after study has shown tremendous developmental benefits from this one simple task.  The benefits of being read to extend beyond the toddler years and can influence their success in high school and beyond.

Research shows several powerful benefits that you give your children by reading aloud to them.

Since reading to your children is so beneficial, here are a few quick tips to get started:

  • Don’t wait – Start reading to your children now.  Even at very early ages, children can enjoy being read to.
  • Go with the flow – Be ready to adapt to your kids’ preferences.  Read books that they like. Stop when they’ve had enough.  There will always be another day.
  • Make it fun – Read with flair!   Use different voices for characters.  Be dramatic.  Keep it interesting by being expressive in your tone.  It might feel “over the top” for you, but your kids will love it.  Above all, don’t let it become a chore! 
  • Keep them wanting more – Stop reading for the day at a “cliff hanger” and leave them in anticipation.  It will make them eager for the next reading time to come around.  This keeps them excited and, if they are really motivated, they may pick up the book and read ahead.  It’s a secret way to promote their reading skills.
  • Be consistent – Set aside a regular time for your reading sessions.  If you set aside the time you show your kids it is important and they will have a time to look forward to.
  • Read to your older kids, too – They can also benefit and enjoy being read to.  There is no upper age for listening to a story.  Don’t believe me?  Look at how many audio books are available for adults! I just finished reading Les Misérables to my older children. It took time but they loved it and we had many great discussions about the book.
  • Read a little above their age level – By reading books that are too difficult for them on their own, you are preparing them for the next step forward.  They will learn new vocabulary words and hear more complex sentences and that will foster their development.  However, remember to . . .
  • Discuss the books with them – Whenever you read a difficult passage, stop to make sure they understood what you just read.  If they didn’t understand it, they are likely to lose track of the story.  Point out connections with their own lives and relate the story to them.  Also, discuss the books when you finish.  Once they know the whole story, it is a great time to reinforce any morals or values that you want to build in your children.
  • Don’t stop – If your reading schedule gets disrupted, don’t let it end your habit.  Readjust and pick up where you left off.  The value your children derive from being read to is enormous.  Don’t let minor interruptions turn you aside. 

Of course, to achieve all of these benefits for your children, you will want to ensure that you’re reading them good quality books.  If you aren’t sure what books you should be reading to your children, check out our curated list at Homeschool Awakening.  We have assembled a collection of our favorite books categorized by grade level.  These are great books to read to your children.

Mike is a co-founder of Homeschool Awakening where he devised the HEART diagnostic and writes a lot.  A father of 5 and homeschooling for more than 15 years, he has been in the trenches and understands the thrills and challenges.  When he is not writing, he is typically on an adventure with his family.

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