Read Aloud: The Best Education

“You may have tangible wealth untold: Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be – I had a mother who read to me.”
-Strickland Gillian, ‘The Reading Mother”

Do you take those precious moments to read aloud to your children? Again and again perhaps? Did you know establishing this simple habit can greatly impact the future success of your children? What tender moments these are snuggling up with your kiddos.

I recently completed The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and what a convicting read it was for me! His emphasis throughout the book is proving the point that reading aloud to your children throughout their childhood and teenage years can make the greatest impact on their education.

Story after story is told in this book detailing these successful students and they trace back their success to the consistency of their parents (both mother and father) in reading alot to their children, even for just 30 minutes each day, even well after they learned to read for themselves.

I recall night after night scaling the heights of many adventure stories with my daddy as a child. What treasured memories these were for us.

Why Read Aloud?

The Commission on Reading, performed a study in 1985, titled Becoming A Nation of Readers, which discovered that:

  • “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to your children.”
  • “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

The experts discovered that reading aloud was more important than work sheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flash cards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom.

“The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.”

Reading is the single most important social factor in American life today

Jim states: “A nation that doesn’t know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box, and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect the entire nation – the literate and the illiterate.”

Reading builds relationships in addition to increasing vocabulary

“Whenever an adult reads to a child, three important things are happening simultaneously and painlessly: 1) a pleasure connection is being made between child and book, 2) both parent and child are learning something from the book they’re sharing together (double learning), and 3) they adult pouring sounds and syllables called words in the child’s ear.”

The speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary and writing vocabulary – all have their origins in the listening vocabulary.

Some important points that stood out to me:

Encourage the daddies to read to their children.

A study conducted in Modesto, California, showed that boys who were read to by their fathers scored significantly higher in reading achievement, and when fathers read recreationally, their sons read more and scored higher than did boys whose fathers did little or no recreational reading. Fathers have a great influence on their children and what an opportunity to invest in their lives.

Lead by example – become a reader.

Our children are like little sponges, soaking up the values of their parents while they sit in living rooms, kitchens, and cars. The more the parents read, the more your children will read. The more we talk about what we read, the more our children will be intrigued as well. Place books, magazines, and newspapers, all over your home. Saturate your home with books. Find snippets of time to read personally while you wait, in the bathroom, before bed, and watch your children’s interest grow. When reading is our hobby, it may very well become their hobby.

Fill your home with a wide range of reading materials.

Surrounding our children with a wide variety of reading materials – books, newspapers, magazines and the like, statistically leads to a higher success rate in school and the greatest interest in books in general. Jim Trelease goes so far as to state that series of fiction are significantly beneficial if not for the content but for the love of reading they inspire.

Don’t be afraid to require your children to read.

The author presents the challenge, “we require our children to pick up their rooms and get dressed, why should we not require them to read?” We think that requiring them to do something will discourage their desires, but statistically it is just not true. The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.

The Read-Aloud Handbook is thorough and motivating. It includes an excellent “Treasury of Read-Alouds” in the back of the book. Every book we have read from his recommendations have been immensely enjoyed by my children.

The conclusion I came to is you may do nothing else with your children but reading aloud for schooling for the first six years of their life, and they will be well-equipped to jump in, if they haven’t already on their own, to the world of reading, and loving it too!

There is no doubt that reading aloud to your children is a very bonding experience. It is cheap and simple. It only requires time investment – but it is the best investment!

For other quality read-aloud selections, check out these recommendations:

Honey for A Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for the Wholehearted Family by Sarah Clarkson

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

22 Responses to Read Aloud: The Best Education

  1. Read Aloud Dad April 13, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    What a fab fab post!

    I adored it (and tweeted it to the world). Great advice and encouragement for parents to start (continue) reading aloud to their kids.

    The Read Aloud Handbook is indeed a blessing!

    Read Aloud Dad

  2. Margaret October 19, 2010 at 11:37 am #


    I have seen this in action. I had read aloud to my kids, but in a moderate way. We moved in my parents and my dad started reading to my boys every night, from good old classics (The Hobbit, Swallows and Amazons, etc). Their vocabulary skyrocketed. It is incredible. My 7 yo has a working vocabulary at 10th grade level, and reading comp. at 7th grade level. My 5 yo has a vocabulary at 5th-6th grade level, though he is just beginning to learn to read. I like to think my kids are smart, but they’re not geniuses or anything. I am pretty confident that I can attribute all of this to the nightly read-aloud sessions, as well as the general proclivity for intellectual conversation around here. :D

    When we move out, I am going to have to take up the read-aloud mantle. It’s clearly too important to let it fall by the wayside.

  3. rachel g June 30, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    Hey, lady!! I’m an English teacher, and I cannot stress how important it is to READ to your kids and encourage them to read. We keep our TV off. My daughter is 19 months and doesn’t know a single cartoon character. But what she does know is so much better! She’s learning colors, how to use the potty (while reading on the pot—of course!), baby signs, animals, shapes, etc. She sits with hardcover library books for 20 minutes at a time and “reads” to herself. I’m so happy you posted on this topic. You go, girl!

  4. Katie June 30, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    I picked up this book when my daughter was only 6 months old. Now, at almost 4, we have read Little House on the Prairie, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and are currently reading Charlotte’s Web. Since we have read to her from such a young age, she is now more engrossed with the story and the words she is hearing and doesn’t always need the colorful pictures anymore. Of course, we still read picture books on a daily basis as well, but I have just been so impressed by her interest in stories, not just pictures. The sweetest thing now is when her 21-mon-old brother wakes up in the morning she rushes into his room and reads all of the board books that she came to memorize through reading them a GAZILLION times as a baby/toddler.

  5. Jill June 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    What a great post! We are very avid readers in my home, I read to my girls every day and we go to the library and participate in the summer reading programs. The library is such a great reource for learning. I love curling up with my girls and reading the classics like little house on the Prairie, The Superfudge series, Beezus and Ramona and many many more. My children look forward to it and read to other kids as well. My children also enjoy the Chester series of books by Melanie watts, it always brings smiles.

  6. Keri @ This Season of Life June 29, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    We are extensive read-alouders! Ha, is that a word? Truly, I agree 100%. My mother read aloud to us as we were growing up, and I firmly believe that is why we were very successful students. Now that I am homeschooling, the most important part of our pieced together “curriculum” is our reading aloud. You’d be amazed at what even tiny children will sit and listen to. Snuggling up and reading is one of the main ways to pass the time in our home. We absolutely love it! (and the used book stores in town have possession of most of my money!)

  7. Jessica Lynette June 29, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    My 2 and 3 year old love being read to and we try to spend 1-2 hours each day cuddled together and reading. It is a beautiful time together and a season that won’t last long enough!

    Thanks for the recommendation on the book. I managed to get it for about half the price on ebay – being on a tighter budget I need to shop around otherwise I’d have loved to of supported you by purchasing through your link!

    An author I love reading to my boys is Bill Peet – he does all his own illustrations and is imaginative and fun with strong morals weaved through the stories.

  8. Laura S. June 29, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    I have always read aloud with my kids but once they become proficient readers, they want to read to themselves and not as a group. I don’t know how to get them back to the couch so we can all read together as I read aloud to them. My preschooler still wants me to read to her, but the third and fifth grader would rather read to themselves in their room. Any ideas?

    • Kika July 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

      I wonder if they’d each like a special read aloud – just you and one of them at a time. My two older kids like this, especially since they now have such different tastes in books. This is bonding time for us.

  9. Katie June 29, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    My mom reading to us kids at night is one of my fondest memories. We explored history, rode on a covered wagon, met many presidents when they were kids and travled to outer space. My mom instilled the love for books in me from an early age as did both of my grandmas. It’s amazing what you remember from stories you have heard compared to what you read yourelf!

  10. Jill June 29, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    My husband often reads Christian books to me at night. It definitely has strengthened our own relationship… oh and we read out loud to our kids as well :)

  11. Dayna June 28, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    Fantastic post! We still read aloud as a family, even during our summer break from homeschooling, and even with our teenagers. Sometimes the 18- or 16-year-old will volunteer to do the reading aloud. Either way, our entire family of seven still treasures this pastime.

  12. Kelly June 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    I’m so glad you mentioned Sarah Clarkson’s book. I got it about a month ago, and it has been so helpful and full of good information and resources. We have checked out so many of her recommendations from the library and enjoyed them all. Reading aloud is a habit that I get into, lose, get back into, lose. I am recommitting! Thanks for the great post.

  13. Leah June 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    I am so thankful for the gentle conviction this post brought to my heart. It’s too easy to get caught up in life as your children grow, and just have them read to themselves. I want to share more of the “magic” with them. Sometimes I forget just how special these moments can be. I would love to check out this book especially in regards to its list of recommendations. Sounds great.

  14. Erin June 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    There’s a list of read alouds on a website I enjoy called Simply Charlotte Mason. The link I’m providing here is to the preschool suggestions (that’s were my children are!). She probably has other suggestions elsewhere on her site. I hope this is helpful – the Lord brought me to the page shortly after reading this post and so I had to come back and share!

    • Leah June 28, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

      Thank you for sharing! I will be happy to check this out..especially since the recommendations are free :) I hope they have a 10 year old boy section as well..hehe I love the Charlotte Mason style too.

  15. Lecia June 28, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Very encouraging post. We often get so wrapped up in providing “experiences” for our children we forget that the simple things matter the most.

  16. Mrs. Pear June 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    We LOVE this book and have given it to other families of littles too as part of a read aloud pkg.

    it really became our rallying book to focus what we were already convinced was a good thing – reading to our children. We have pictures of our oldest at 3 weeks reading the Williams Sonoma catalog with me, and of her unable to sit up but being read to. Her sister got a tougher start to life but she got read to just as much.

    At breakfast time we have Bible time and then before we leave the table I have an alternating list of 6 books I read our youngest while she is in the high chair. And if our oldest would like to listen she knows to pull up a chair.

    Then we leave the table and find a comfy place for our chapter read aloud.

    This takes until 9 most mornings, but is a wonderful start to the day.

  17. Heather June 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    Just wanted to include the very best book you can read to your children and anyone for that matter… God’s Word, the Holy Bible. Not only does it provide open doors for you to talk to your children about the most important things in life, it also give opportunity to hide His Word in their hearts. Aside from that, it includes beautiful examples of poetry and literature.

  18. Megan June 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    That’s a very freeing study. It is amazing to think that the most important thing for their education is something so easy. (and something I’m already doing!) I frequently debate in my mind whether I should be working harder at teaching my boys things through flashcards, media, games, etc. or if I just need to let them be kids and play-creatively of course. I’ve decided for now that they can learn great concepts by just working alongside my husband in the garden or cooking with me. Fortunately, reading plays a major role in our lives. I can’t wait to read the book!

  19. lo June 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    You know, some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around books — and that’s thanks to a mom who went out of her way to always read to us… and later WITH us. Best gift you can ever give your kids!

  20. Danielle June 28, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Yep, we’ve been reading to our children since they were in utero! (along w/playing classical music) Along w/Bible time, we read stories at bedtime. And often my children will bring a book to myself or their dad for us to read to them. We also let our oldest read to us.