The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction: part 1
Meghan Cox Gurdon
The pleasures of reading aloud to our children are obvious for most of us who have experienced it from the perspective of the child and from the role of the parent. It was a special part of parenthood for me and I missed it when our children could read and understand it as well by themselves and became impatient to wait until the next night find out what came next. When we read at bedtime, it was an important part of our routine. It was an escape from whatever the day was for each of us; a time to share and a welcome transition to bed and sleep. The characters and incidents in the book often provided a safe remove to discuss what would not have been discussed otherwise or take us off in other directions. Some nights were better than others, and life is busier and more distracted now than it was, but that makes this time more important – not less.
Meghan Cox Gurdon and her husband have five children. She brings an emotional attachment to this subject from having been read to and from reading to her children. While this is the driving force behind her book, she also shares many reasons, supported by research, for the importance to reading to our children. She writes as a parent, not as a scientist. Mrs. Gurdon has been the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer since 2005.
There can’t be many topics as warm as this and listing the reasons to read to our children is far too cold and clinical. Instead, I will post excerpts over the next few weeks. Some of these will be modified to make them understandable out of context. While most of us skim to read quickly, I suggest that you try reading these aloud, as if you were reading them to someone. Reading aloud is like writing by hand. It slows us down to provide more time to think.
Reading to children during infancy and early childhood gives them more of exactly what they need: more loving adult attention, more language, and more opportunities to experience mutual engagement and empathy. Picture books enhance the time parents and children spend together.
From Morten Christiansen who runs the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Cornell University. Ambient talking seems to do little or nothing for babies and toddlers. What helps babies most is having people speak and read with them in a responsive way. What millennia of human experience and innumerable modern studies show is that they learn from us. “There’s a lot of language learning that’s social in nature. One of the first things that we learn as children is, actually, the social part of it.” What matters for the child’s learning is contingency and responsiveness.
Reading with children makes reading and writing social. Speech is inherently social. Young children have a drive to develop receptive language and speech so they can communicate. Learning to read and write take longer and don’t provide the immediate reward provided by a single spoken word. Jointly experiencing the marvel of the printed word helps create the drive for children to learn to read and write.
READ PART 2 HERE: