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Posted by Tom, May 10, 2013

Reading aloud: why it matters – a guest post by Speech and Language Therapist Priya Desai

A guest post by Priya Desai, Speech and Language Therapist and children’s author, on the importance of reading aloud.

Reading aloud with your child is an almost every day occurrence when your child is first learning to read. As a child reaches 7 or 8 years of age, they will naturally want to start reading for themselves, as their reading competency and skill develops. Reaching this more independent reading stage is a positive milestone; however close monitoring and further paired reading should still be maintained as part of the everyday reading routine. There is good reason for this: a child may get stuck on a word; they will read it and more than likely assume it to be a word they already know or a word they think it should sound like. This self-teaching of reading more complex and unfamiliar words will more than likely become a habit; hence a child will read, skimming over complex words just to get the end. In doing so, reading for meaning is lost; parts of the story will be taken in but not the whole story. This is hardly efficient and worthwhile reading.

In recent months, I have recommended ‘reading aloud’ to parents, as part of weekly speech and language therapy homework, on a more regular basis. This has mainly been for children who are perfecting specific speech sounds; however, having given these recommendations and also from reading aloud with older children myself, I have re-discovered not only the joy of sharing books but also the developmental necessity and benefit of doing so.

– Firstly, as adults and parents, we can step in when tricky words arise, and discuss the meaning and also spelling of words, therefore providing essential language and spelling support. For example, “Peering means looking…and it’s spelt like deer, d-e-e-r.”

– You can discuss the text in detail: “What does assertive mean?” “Why do you think X has happened?” Therefore helping a child appreciate the text more, and find meaning from it, which will in turn also help to develop inference skills. Practising stopping and thinking will instil a stop and think approach in a child; which they will naturally start to use when reading independently. This is a very important skill to practise and develop, as it is needed for school based reading comprehension skills.

– If you stop and think of words, discuss the spelling, the meaning, your child will develop greater word knowledge, both in terms of their receptive understanding of words and their knowledge of words. This will help their expressive language skills, in addition to supporting their written language skills.

– Children can work on their rate of speech, overall clarity, and their use of expression, emotion and intonation. This will give them further confidence and skill in reading aloud at school and also the good enunciation skills needed for drama lessons and school productions.

– Reading aloud helps us to process information more accurately, as we naturally listen to words more closely as we hear them. For a developing reader, reading aloud will also ensure that words are read accurately; hence the text will be understood with greater clarity.

– As a parent, reading aloud will also help you monitor the stories your child is reading and to ascertain if a book is the correct reading level. Often children like to read books that their friends are reading; however your child may not actually be reading the most suitable level, as reading skills vary to start with. In fact, I often recommend to parents of more competent readers to still keep looking at picture books together at home; and I still bring picture books to lessons for 6-9 year olds because children simply love to see pictures in books. The other benefit is that picture books, as they are so visual, help a child visualise information more easily and to see how the story progresses sequentially; therefore providing nice input for children to develop their own story-telling skills further.

Reading together with your child is a beautiful, additional way you can bond with each other, whilst helping to develop a wide range of literacy, and speaking and listening skills. Our lives are now so busy – at times, in order to speed up and make progress, we need to slow down.

Thank you for this fantastic post, Priya! You can find Priya on Twitter here and on her own website, www.priyadesai.co.uk.