I just finished reading out loud the wonderful story "The Hobbit" by JRR Tolkien to my 6 and 8 year old boys! They loved the story, were fascinated by it and would have preferred I read all 300 pages in one sitting! We finished it over the course of one week, which is a lot of reading out loud, I assure you! My throat is more parched than usual and I will insist on a few days break before starting on the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Now, I love to read myself and I love to read to the kids but usually I find that my thoughts are something like this: "They can read themselves so read themselves they shall." And those thoughts are correct, in and of themselves. I ensure our shelves are stocked with books they enjoy and are able to read, like the Boxcar Children series or Magic Treehouse series or The Littles series, etc. My oldest is able to read these with great ease and enjoys the stories. However, as it was pointed out to me at a recent homeschool conference, it is vitally important to read out loud to your children in great quantities for many years, even if they are able to read to themselves. Most people think that if children are able to read, they are also able to write. Good readers equals good writers, correct? Simply untrue. The speaker, Andrew Pudewa, ensured us that it would be better to read nothing than to read than which destroys your soul, and there is a lot of that available. You cannot get something out of a brain that is not there, adult or child. I want my child to speak and write with reliably correct and sophisticated language and in order for that to happen, I need to somehow get that reliably correct and sophisticated language into their brain! As I learned at this conference, the #1 influencing factor on children's language development is media! We all know that media (TV, radio, internet, billboards, etc.) will develop a language in our children but it is most certainly not reliably correct or sophisticated! The #2 influencing factor on language development is a child's peers. Fascinating, really, how peers influence the language a child uses. A child that is in charge of a number of children younger than themself will actually use language above their age level in order to maintain that sense of authority and control. A young child that is in the company of older children will actually raise their language level to the level of the older children simply because of emulation. The worst possible environment for a child's language development is many children of their same age. In that situation, the langauge pattern will actually sink to the lowest common denominator because no one wants to stick out as being different! I find that fascinating, don't you? And our schools clump all children the same age together all day. No wonder their language is what it is! The #3 influencing factor on language developement is parents or other busy adults. We have no time to carry on conversations that matter with our children. Finally, the #4 influencing factor on language development is books. However, children that read books to themselves usually read fast (especially if they are good readers) and skip parts that are boring or uninteresting. If they find a word they don't know, the skip it. If they find a word they cannot pronounce, they skip it. If they find a paragraph that is boring and doesn't further the plot, they skip it! All this skipping causes the child to miss the syntax of the language. So, essentially, nothing in a child's world is providing them with reliably correct and sophisticated language. The solution? Read out loud to your child. Auditory language is mandatory to building verbal and written language. So, read out loud in vast quantities, regardless if your child is able to read to themselves or not. Read books that are above their comprehension level. They may not get everything (in response to my question, "Are you understanding everything I read?" in reference to The Hobbit, P replied, "Of course not, I am only a kid!") but it will cause them to develop comprehension. Read something challenging like Twain or Austin or Bronte, Lewis or Tolkien. Read, read, read, and someday your child will be able to speak and write using reliably correct and sophisticated language. Besides, don't you remember that grade school teacher reading books out loud to you? Isn't that a fond memory of yours as it is mine? Jay remembers when his grade 5 teacher read The Hobbit to him. And aren't those memories and time spent with your child reason enough to read? If that isn't enough, the conversations garnered by reading those books sure are! So, go find a great story, a classic story, and get reading!
Angels Among Us
3 years ago