Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Long before I became a parent, I read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It planted a little seed about the importance of reading aloud that has influenced my parenting since my daughter was born. Oops — scratch that — since BEFORE my daughter was born. I read her Harry Potter in utero to help develop my read-aloud chops.

I’ve heard Jim Trelease speak, and whether he’s writing or speaking he’s quite the salesman, sharing stories from his own parenting experience and statistics that underscore the importance of reading aloud. It’s really the statistics that have kept me reading even when the last thing I feel like doing is reading Clifford Goes to the Circus for the thousandth time.

One study surveyed kindergarten students who displayed particularly high and low interest levels in reading. It showed “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” in terms of reading interest. Kids whose parents read for leisure and who took an interest in reading aloud to them showed high interest in reading.

This next one really tugs at my heartstrings because it’s tied to socioeconomic status. Researchers visited homes of forty-two working families of three different socioeconomic groups for an hour a month over two and a half years, recording conversations that took place in front of the child.
When the daily number of words for each group of children in projected across four years, the four-year-old child from the professional family will have heard 45 million words, the working class child 26 million, and the welfare child only 13 million. All three children will show up for kindergarten on the same day, but one will have heard 32 million fewer words.
Trelease goes on to say, “The message in this kind of research in unambiguous: It’s not the toys in the house that make the difference in children’s lives; it’s the words in their heads.”

I read The Read-Aloud Handbook before my daughter was born, and since then I’ve constantly focused on the words I’m giving her. It has paid off. I’ve noticed her growing vocabulary, and recently the director of her preschool pulled me aside to comment on it as well.

Visit Jim Trelease’s website for excerpts from The Read-Aloud Handbook and other helpful information.

I’ll leave you with these great Trelease tips:
  • Build reading into your daily routine.
  • Fill every room in your home with magazines, newspapers, and books.
  • Buy a book light to encourage your older child to do some extra reading.
  • Always say yes to one more book.

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