Of all the things I want to thank my mother for, the time she devoted to reading aloud to me as a child is at the top of the list. She didn’t just tuck my sister and me into bed with a little story; she climbed in an hour before bedtime and read aloud full novels in just a few weeks.

Years ago, my mother was in a car accident; we knew she would be okay, but we had some rough times to get through. The hospital room didn’t allow for snuggling up, but as my sister and I took turns reading aloud Jane Austen in Boca, we recaptured that bedtime story feeling. I’ve wondered ever since how I could get the three of us to read aloud to each other, even if just once a year.

So a recent blog post by Deb Werrlein brought a big smile to my face—she’s still reading aloud to her teenagers!

Reading aloud to little kids is common (and should be universal); it develops language, vocabulary, and knowledge—and makes for great family time. But not long after children learn to read, most parents stop reading aloud. That’s a shame. As Thomas Sticht has found, listening comprehension typically outstrips reading comprehension until age 13. Through middle school, teachers and parents could boost learning by reading texts that are too challenging for children to tackle on their own.

That should be plenty of inducement, but that’s not what kept Deb going. She’s made reading aloud part of her family life for pure enjoyment—the reading itself and the rich conversations that ensue:

Before the days of radio, television and the Xbox, families often gathered to listen as someone read aloud for entertainment. This communal activity prompted discussion, speculation, and debate.

In our modern day, reading together can generate common ground for parents and teens who might otherwise find their interests diverging. Reading with my kids has spurred lively discussions about war, pride, racism, greed, capitalism, and addiction. Of course, we also spend plenty of time soaking in the suspense of what will happen next. For my kids, it’s pure entertainment. For me, it’s rare quiet time spent together and the opportunity to connect. Whatever our motivations, this pleasure and bonding has kept us reading together for years….

On some nights, we read during chores—where one of us washes dishes while the other reads out loud. Other times, we read on vacation. When my husband, the kids, and I drove to Florida this past Christmas, we listened to “The Help” on CD for 18 hours, bringing our family together around one story in the car….

The novel my son and I just finished is one of many Stephen King books we have read together. When I gave it to him for his birthday last June, I knew the 842-page tome might be the last we’d have time to read together. It took us almost a year to get through it, but at least that gave us months to talk about the book. We speculated all winter about whether the time-traveling protagonist could save President Kennedy, and if he did, what sinister repercussions Stephen King might have in store this time.

When we finally turned the last page, I was sad for the end of an era. My son will graduate this June and leave for college in August. But I’m so grateful for the stacks of books and memories we’ve made over the years.

Shutterstock Image
Teens reading to each other courtesy of Shutterstock.


3 comments on “Spend the Summer Reading (Aloud)”

  1. 1
    Karen Gerew on June 9, 2015

    I also read to my children every night until they left for college! I agree, that time together, sharing a book was a wonderful experience for all of us! From Goodnight Moon to The Hobbit to The Iliad and so much in between!
    Today they are both avid readers and we often discuss the books we are reading independently, and recommend some too!

  2. 2
    Regina Johnson on June 10, 2015

    One of my favorite memories is reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” aloud with my then 16 year son Devar for his English Class. Raising three active sons was fun but chaotic. It was such a joy knowing my 6 footer and I would have time together to relax and read!

  3. 3
    Donna German on November 29, 2018

    I remember my English teacher reading Tarzan to us. “If you are good and we get our work done, we can get in a chapter of Tarzan” and the class would quiet down. Years later, I picked it up to read to our children on a cross-country car trip. We took turns reading that and Harry Potter aloud. Each girl read a chapter aloud and passed it to the next. Nobody was allowed to skip ahead. Great memories. I’ll be driving from TX to CO with a daughter and her family over Christmas and already have chapter books to read to the boys (3&5).

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