This is a list of 5 of the main benefits I have identified from reading aloud to my family for about 20 years.
1. Reading aloud to your family promotes family culture, develops your family identity and unity, and provides an enjoyable shared experience and memories for your family.
It can also aid in character development when you read stories that portray a worldview that encourages good character and growth toward better character.
One year our family experienced a fun adventure as we read stories together on our way to a vacation in Florida.
We excitedly set out on our first real family vacation since we had kids. And we had 6 of them! We were going to Florida with 6 kids ranging in age from 18 months to 11 years old. It was a miracle. Gary was unemployed. We had no income. It was insane to think that we could do this, but sanity was not a part of the equation. We needed this! We needed a break from the ho-hum, humdrum existence we had been living for a year and a half. And my former boss at the day care center was offering her house for free if we could just get there. We could cook our own food once we got there. It had a fully functional kitchen and a grocery store nearby. So it wouldn’t really cost that much more than our humdrum life at home was costing us. Just the cost of gas to get there and one night at a hotel on the way there since it was a 900 mile trip and would take about 14 hours to get there.
We packed as lightly as we could with a family of 6 children and 2 adults. But one thing I made sure we took with us was the books we had been reading together as a family and the next one I had planned to read. We finished Wheel on the School as we headed out. I loved that story with all my heart! The next book I scheduled was Strawberry Girl. I opened it and started reading and found out that it took place in Florida! I didn’t even realize it before we headed out. I’m not the world’s best planner, but the Holy Spirit covers me all the time!
So on the way to Florida I started reading about a girl who lived in Florida and her family’s experiences as they moved from northern Florida to southern Florida. We kind of moved along with her from northern Florida to southern Florida corresponding to the story as we drove toward Ormond Beach on the Atlantic coast. We saw Palmetto trees like the ones Strawberry Girl described in the story. In fact our beach umbrella ended up in a tangled, impenetrable grove of Palmettos when a mini tornado swept in from the ocean and grabbed our umbrella and took it flying a few hundred feet in the air and deposited it across the street in the middle of a mass of plants and Palmetto trees that we were sure harbored snakes and all manner of spiders and other creatures that we wanted nothing to do with. So, alas, our introduction to Palmetto trees was not a happy one.
I was so happy to read a book about the same place that we were going to for our vacation. The only problem we had with reading aloud as we drove along in the car was my husband’s vivid imagination and his ability to lose himself in a story. We almost plowed into the back of the car in front of us several times because he was paying so much attention to the story that he forgot to pay attention to his driving. I learned to only read when traffic was light or we were on a stretch of highway that didn’t require a lot of his thought or attention to drive safely while thinking about something else.
We will always have that shared memory. The older kids were shaped by lots of stories. My husband still mentions the story I read to them on the way to Florida from time to time. We read almost every read-aloud in the Sonlight catalog to them. I need to go back and re-read them to the younger children now. I loved almost all of those books. They are living books, well-written, soul-enriching, full of moral lessons, and many of them portray family as a strong anchor for the members.
2. Reading good books aloud to your children exposes children to excellent authors, advanced vocabulary, story form, excellent writing, ideas, imagination, philosophy, heroes, and good morals.
It’s important to choose good books with a strong godly worldview that reinforces your values and ideals. Living books are the best books to read aloud with your family. If you’re not familiar with the concept of living books, research the Charlotte Mason method and look up her definition and explanation of living books. I have some posts about the Charlotte Mason method here on my blog under the category of homeschooling and the subcategory of Charlotte Mason. She speaks about the process of children interacting mind to mind with great authors when they read their works and how our minds feed on great ideas.
Stories are the best way to teach and learn, too. Most of my children have been mostly read to as their main form of education, and the older ones have become excellent writers. I attribute much of that to being read to so much.
3. You can teach many subjects and lots of information by reading aloud.
When choosing a good book to read aloud, you should take into account the setting and time of the story. Many of the Classics and lots of historical fiction teaches content that we want our children to learn. They actually help children to learn more about history, geography, poetry, beauty of language and other cultures. Biographies and autobiographies are also good for immersing yourself and your child in the life and times of famous and successful people and can inspire your child to greatness himself!
4. Reading aloud to children builds their imagination. They learn to listen and visualize scenes, characters, settings, landforms, landscapes and so much more.
When children are read to or listen to a story on CD or radio, they have to use their imagination more than when they watch a video or movie. They can visualize characters, settings, scenes, landforms and landscapes. They get to do the work of building a picture of what the characters look like and their mannerisms, clothing, and so much more from their own imagination. It is a good exercise in developing their imagination and ability to visualize, which we all need to be able to use to make life more interesting and to create beauty and to invent new things.
5. Reading to children inculcates a love of reading.
It instills a desire to read to themselves and to become lifelong readers and learners. If you start reading aloud to children when they are very young, as in so young that they still can’t read themselves, you can read stories to them that they can comprehend or get knowledge from even though they can’t read it yet for themselves. And as they get older, if you continue to read to them, you set a pattern for them and create a desire in them to learn more and experience good literature. You enable them to experience great stories and profound ideas that might be above their reading level but meet or extend their comprehension level. And the great stories and Classics may beckon them to learn to read so they can enjoy them on their own also. But I encourage parents to keep reading aloud to their children even after they can read. Nothing can beat the shared experience of enjoying a good story together!