Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Reading Aloud Has No Effect And What To Do About It?

You've been reading aloud for three months straight.

Every day.

Since the very beginning you religiously followed your preferred scheme.

Suppertime → Bath-time → Reading aloud → Bedtime.

Whenever you can, you also read aloud during afternoons and weekend mornings.

Yet, despite all your efforts and sacrifices, there is no visible effect.

Your lovely boy is still having trouble pronouncing those "R"s and he is even starting to stutter.

Your darling girl is still not in the top of her class and certainly not among the most fluent talkers of her generation.

There are no tangible effects of all that reading, despite all assurances that this is a game-changer.

Your kids were not reinvented as the best students of their generation, as you expected.

Reading aloud was not a silver bullet, after all. 

It is even more disheartening because you've done it all by the book.

You cut down on your kid's screen time. A struggle you would rather not remember.

Their library cards are stamped front and back.

Your home library is brimming with children's titles.

Yet your kids will rarely ask you on their own to read aloud to them during the day.

They prefer to stack the books one on top of the other and shout "Timbbbbbeeeeer!" as they collapse the books to the floor, laughing like crazy.

Where is that promised enlightment?

A Love So Beautiful

Enlightenment must come little by little - otherwise it would overwhelm. [Idries Shah]

One of the mistakes that we parents make is sometimes we expect the impossible.

As strange as it may seem, reading aloud is not an activity that we should embark on because of its results.

The name of the game is not winning.

This is no game at all.

There is no need to measure the effects of reading aloud as it is not a mind-training activity.

Reading aloud is a mind-expanding activity. 

You are taking part in the creation of a "thinking machine", not a circus performer.

Once again you are giving birth to your child by reading aloud to him.

A thinking child is being born.

Give your kid time to mature.

Paradoxically, some kids who are passing through phases of dramatic vocabulary increases could even begin to stumble on their words as they become aware that there are many more ways of saying what they feel.

Take, for example, your little girl who feels hungry.

Instead of saying "I'm hungry" as usual, her mind is now aware that it can instruct the mouth to say "I'm famished" or "I'm starving" or "I could eat a horse"  or "I'm having the munchies" or even "My roaring tummy is a mystery to me!".

Which one to use? Hesitation ensues.

But it is a sign of greater vocabulary exuberance, not the opposite.

It may be tempting to try to make conclusions about whether reading aloud is making a difference to your kid now.

Beware of making the wrong conclusions.

For example, a parent notices:

The more we read aloud, the less social my kid has become.
Therefore reading aloud causes introvertion, he needs more sports and less reading aloud. 

This type of logic - reverse causation - is a fallacy that can easily occur.

But it is no more logical, than the following statement:

The more firemen fighting a fire, the bigger the fire is observed to be.
Therefore firemen cause fire.

Stop trying to assess the effects that reading aloud is having on your kid.

Keep your focus instead on:
  • choosing good books
  • connecting book content to your child's life experience and other concepts
  • having fun and sharing laughs during read-alouds 
  • talking and communicating with your child about the books that you read and plan to read

Reading aloud is not a tactic you should use to improve your kids' school performance. It may be an added benefit, yes, but school tests are not the aim of this exercise.  

Reading aloud is a way of showing our children how much fun it can be to spend time with the greatest minds of human civilization. 

It is also one of the most beautiful ways of bestowing love on another being. 

If you are concerned about tests, don't worry. Life creates the ultimate test - a test your well-read kid will pass with flying colors. 

A test of humanity. 

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