Friday, February 8, 2013

Reading Out Loud - Part 2

While attending a h/school conference two years ago, the keynote speaker (a linguist from the U.S. who specialized in language and learning and reading) suggested that it was ideal for a child to be read aloud to for at least two hours every day.  Two hours.  I did my friend beside me!

That same keynote speaker said that the reason for the importance of reading out loud (even when children can read for themselves) is because hearing the language read aloud is the primary source of a child learning language and building vocabulary.  He gave an example.  He told about how amazed he had once been at how many huge chapter books his youngish daughter was reading every week; then one day he sat down to read aloud to her and she kept asking him to skip certain 'boring' parts and move on to the next part.  He suddenly realized how she was getting through so many books!  By contrast, when a child is read aloud to on a regular basis, the child hears every single word; furthermore, over time, the child's vocabulary acquisition expands broadly because s/he learns words within context of the sentence/story.

The same speaker also encouraged parents to read books to their children that were somewhat beyond their comprehension level; again, because that is what will build language.  One of the books I am currently reading to Matthew, a gift from a lovely new friend, is Redwall, by Brian Jacques.  This is a prime example of reading above a child's comprehension level.  When we read Redwall, we sit with a dictionary in our lap and we use it!  When I read the first sentence of the book to Matthew a couple of months ago, we had to stop four times to understand either a word or a concept in just that first sentence!  Reading this book is slow going and it's going to take us many months to get through it, in large part because Matthew can handle only small doses of it at a time (and I don't want him to be frustrated).  Interestingly, though, I have noticed that the more we read it, the easier it seems to be for him to understand the words that are new to him and the style of writing - it's kinda like once he's in the swing of things, the understanding comes more easily.  I believe this might be a prime example of what that keynote speaker was talking about.

Like I said, when I heard the speaker talk about reading out loud to your children for two yours/day, I gasped.  Internally, I froze.  I could never do that, I thought.  Although I'd been reading out loud for as many years as Matthew had been alive, there was no way I was reading two hours a day.

But then the speaker eased my mind and the impossible became possible:  He noted that audio books can be included in that total time.  I let out my breath.  Whew.  Matthew has been listening to audio books since the day he turned five and received his first CD player.  He has hundreds of well-used audio CDs sitting on his shelves.  These days, since transitioning last year to an ipod and docking station, we build up his audio book library through  Between his audio books and my reading out loud, he's likely being read to well over two hours on most days.  I cannot speak highly enough of audio books!

Incidentally, I love for kids' books; I'm sure they have great books for adults, too, but I use them only for kids' books!  A year ago, I signed up with for a monthly plan and I pay $22.95 monthly to receive two credits per month - one credit purchases one audio book.  It's not the cheapest thing in the world, but it's way cheaper than purchasing audio books from a retail store and I can download them directly onto Matthew's iPod.  I also purchase additional credits from if they ever go on sale, or use my credit card to purchase additional books on our wish list if they get further marked down in price.

Shortly after I signed up with, I spent an entire day while on a silent retreat going through thousands and thousands of kids' books available on, and I ended the day with a wishlist for Matthew that was about a hundred books long. has the Newberry award winner kids' titles, and most of the other books that were on my list of books that I wanted Matthew to read.  We use to the max and Matthew has been the consumer of every single audio book I have purchased with our credits - he has listened to dozens of awesome audio books in the past year through  I am always relieved on the day that, like a few days ago, I get that little email from advising me that my monthly credits have been deposited into my account!  

The good news is that all three of my kids now love listening to audio books.  Seth received a CD player for his birthday last summer, along with a few of his own new audio books and he spent hours listening to those.  Because he saw Matthew listening to his audio books for so many months already, he was primed and very excited to have the opportunity to do the same for himself.  One of my favourite sights is seeing the boys lying quietly in their beds, either in the middle of the afternoon or in the evening before bed, earphones on, listening to whatever audio book they currently have going.  Seth finished his own audio books in short order, and is now working on the beginning's of Matthew's extensive collection (which is gradually becoming the family collection!).

After wanting a CD player of her own for months, Lizzie finally got one at Christmas time.  She was thrilled.  Her longing to do what the boys were able to do, and the anticipation that had built up for her, were huge!  My social little butterfly, who hates spending even a moment by herself, now loves to ask if she can go upstairs for a while to listen to her CD player.  She plants herself on her butt in the middle of her bedroom floor and puts her CD player on the floor by her knees, and she faces it as if she's having a conversation with it.  It's adorable.  Sometimes she listens to it without headphones and other times she proudly puts on her pink earbuds and smiles away as she listens.  At the moment, she is listening to Matthew's old Curious George stories, to a Frog and Toad series, and to a Dr. Seuss collection that has been hanging around for years.

Reading has always been a huge part of my life, and I so hope that my children will love reading as adults, too.  Teaching them to read, reading out loud to them as much and as often as I can, and providing them with audible books to listen to to their hearts content are some of the greatest academic gifts I think I can give my children.


  1. I feel like I've maybe left this exact comment before, but... I love audio books too, to give my eyes a rest once in a while. I often find myself at Librivox - free audio books read by volunteers - it's a bit hit and miss but volunteer Cori Samuel's reading of Black Beauty is stunning. We're also listening to the Railway Children by E. Nesbit right now and loving it. The reader starts off at much to hectic a pace but slows down over time, thankfully! So for other cheapwads, um, I mean thrifty people, this is another good option.
    Thanks Ruth! I will check out the audible thing, too, cause it can download to the new gadget someone gifted to us for car use.

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