When you think about reading to your child, you likely think about being cozied up for bedtime with your rather young child, snuggled under the covers reading a not-too-long picture book. It’s a terrific ritual! But don’t limit your reading to your child at bedtime, and don’t limit reading to the young child. Reading to our kids has value in terms of literacy development well past the toddler years.
Older kids, too
Reading to your kids is not just for the preschool set -- and just because your child can read (and read) well on their own doesn't mean your job as a designated reader is done. Older kids -- fourth, fifth and sixth graders and older! -- still benefit from listening to a parent read aloud. Books with more complex language structure, rich vocabulary and serious subject matter are perfect for reading to and with an older child. Not only does it help further evolve a child's literacy, but it opens up paths for communication between you.
Not just at bedtime
Reading at bedtime is a wonderful sleepy time ritual, but take the reading aloud out of the bedroom. Oh, keep reading at bedtime -- but read aloud at other times of the day, too. Try reading aloud to your kids at the breakfast table. They may be a little groggy (heck, maybe you are, too), but hearing the words of that classic book you are sharing with them helps awaken their minds so they are ready for the school day.
You know the reading guidelines say read to your child for 20 minutes a day -- but when was the last time you actually did? Chores and activities get in the way, and if you sat on your child's bed that long at the end of a busy day, you'd like be snoring before she is! But length of reading is important, so get a cup of tea and set a timer and make sure you read to your child for at least 20 minutes day, if not more. Or for significantly longer a few times a week. It will make a difference for both of you, both in terms of the books you will be reading together and in terms very high quality bonding time.
Try chapter books
You don't have to get through a whole book in a sitting each time you read to your child. Introduce chapter books early for a continuity in your reading over many days or even weeks, and you'll both want to get back to reading together to see what happens next. This is a great way to introduce classic literature to your child! Moby Dick, here you come!
More on reading