The value in reading aloud [06-01-2023]

Many subscribers here will no doubt recall a plethora of childhood experiences listening to storybooks read aloud.  This likely occurred as a nightly bedtime ritual or a cherished storybook circle-time in the classroom. In either case – the most essential outcome was the establishment of neurological connections associating reading with the sense-filled emotional feelings of love, safety, warmth and belonging. Of the many benefits resulting from listening to stories, probably the one least discussed is the planting of a valuable seed that, if nurtured over time, will blossom into a lifelong love of reading. While the broad definition of literate suggests one’s capacity to read, there is no guarantee that knowledge of reading ensures one’s love of reading. Assuming that you see value in developing a child’s learning autonomy – and regard reading as a key component in independent growth and expansion of knowledge, skills and capacity – it stands to reason that fostering love for reading is a worthy pursuit. For more information about a community-wide capacity generating literacy program, I recommend the model published by Childhood Education International.

So, how do we wrap our heads around understanding how ‘my reading to another‘ impacts ‘their‘ desire to read? The secret is in  modelling the transformation of abstract words on the page to narratives that can be imagined or visualized. In the case of young children, the reference to illustrations initially assists in their formation of mind-images. Storybook characters become alive in the imagination, and when this happens, the desire to read is born. This is why young children ask for their favorite story to be read again and again.  With each iteration, the language patterns within the story are being memorized, new vocabulary internalized and the young reader begins to mimic the reading behavior that was modelled. At the age of 3, my oldest daughter took every chance she had to publicly display her prowess in reading Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’, which at that time was her favorite story. When the child begins to recognize the relationship between letter phonemes and words that is when the magical adventure ensues. (Reading Rockets is a recommended website with great resources and information)

Following the above string of logic, it stands to reason why 2nd language or foreign language learners have a more difficult time, and in fact may never develop a love of reading in the target language. Their exposure to reading is likely limited to the controlled text presented in the language classroom, usually as practice for comprehension development/assessment. This however is not an inevitable outcome considering that all children are born with a universal capacity to discriminate phonemes, and that neurological connections associating reading with emotions of love, safety, warmth and belonging – are easily established through the simple process of story-time. In creating the ‘Marcus’ series, it was my desire to provide  young readers of all types with a story that highlights the true superpowers inherent within them.

There are two aspects that separate this book from other books within the genre of juvenile fiction. The first regards the main protagonist – a five year old boy whose incessant curiosity about the world around him demonstrates a capacity for analytical thinking and creativity to an extent that we do not often attribute to one so young… I believe Marcus represents a far greater proportion of young souls whose magnificent capacity may not be fully recognized or appreciated.

The second, is in its intentionality to present young readers a story that celebrates their capabilities.  While most early reader texts limit the range and scope of vocabulary to the 500 most frequently used words, I’ve found that young readers enjoy the challenge of decoding and amassing new vocabulary that others perceive as complex. The act of reading is the process of making sense of abstract symbols to understand meaning. Similar to Roald Dahl  and other like-minded authors, I do not wish to impose limitations on my readers, for I believe they are  capable of far more than we give them credit for. The rich vocabulary is intentional, and awakens the mind to an exciting linguistic adventure that will be experienced by the young reader as a challenge overcome. That said, the syllabic highlighting of text provides young readers greater ease in applying phonetic understanding to decode and pronounce new vocabulary.

Teachers, parents and adult mentors are advised to take story-time outside (weather permitting), when reading ‘Marcus King of the Dandelions‘ to young readers for the first time, so that reference to the natural environment around them can be made throughout the experience. Like learning to ride a bicycle, you will see their intrinsic desire to read expand and mature with practice.

Any comments or reflections based on your own experiences of reading aloud are welcome to be shared among the community here.

The next update will be published on 1 July 2023!

Stay blessed,

L. Malungu


6 Comments on “The value in reading aloud [06-01-2023]”

  1. Very true. Those children who have had bed time stories read to them, are not only able to articulate with greater vocabulary, but are also more perceptive than others of the same age.

    • Perhaps it is in story telling and sharing that the commonalities of our human experience can be recognized and appreciated.

  2. I do agree with you. I always read stories at my children when they were young. This developed not only a reading habit but also showed them mum’s love for them . Then It was a special time devoted to them. They sometimes invented a different ending for the story stimulating their imagination.Now I do the same with my students. Thank you Laurrie.
    Estela Rondon from Brazil❤️

    • Thank you so much for your comment, and I agree this same feeling of love and belonging can be shared with students as well!

  3. The power of reading aloud became too evident when I used to write my exams in L2 (Bengali) simply by listening to the texts being read out by Mom. The stories used to run for pages & I found it torturous to read them line by line. But simply listening, remembering & recalling them made me accomplish the task easily. Till today, I remember the crux of those stories & haven’t forgotten them. How magical really stories are! I also remember certain words that I had first come across those texts which I later never forgot to use in my own compositions. I also recall that the books were drab with no illustrations at all. The feel & outlook of a book too matters, from its outside cover to its glossy smooth pages n print. Everything does raises the appeal of a book when we are at school. Things need time to mature!

    • It is so very true that listening to stories read aloud enable a stronger emotional attachment to be established, thus allowing deeper comprehensive understanding. This also occurs when we apply metacognition in listening to ourselves read the text aloud.

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