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Montreal Families

Reading aloud promotes literacy

How can we raise children so they develop a love of reading? This question has vexed experts and parents alike, particularly with the growing competition from television, video games and the Internet. Must we begin reading to baby in utero to have any hope of bearing a child eager to read? What if our youngster suddenly announces that “reading is boring and I’m never going to do it again.”?

Parents looking for information and guidance on instilling a love of reading can turn to the 2006-2007 edition of the Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, $19.50) written by educator Jim Trelease. First published in 1979, the book has become a classic thanks to the author’s accessible writing style and time-tested tips on how to develop a life-long love of reading.

While neatly summarizing the research on literacy, Trelease also puts forth one main theory: parents should read aloud to their children. This is hardly a new idea but Trelease takes it one step further by encouraging parents to read out loud even after their children have learned to read for themselves. Even teenagers benefit from being read to, he suggests.

His theory is based on the notion that children learn about words in two ways: by seeing them and by hearing them. So children gain just as much by listening to a story as they do by reading it themselves. The author also points out that human beings are drawn to pleasure, so if children associate reading with pleasure (sharing time with a parent, the excitement of hearing a good story, etc.), they are likely to continue doing it.

Finally, Trelease emphasizes that reading is an accrued skill, meaning it develops and deepens over time. So reading regularly and often to a child or teen will help improve his or her literacy skills.

The Read-Aloud Handbook also makes the case that raising life-long readers cannot be the sole responsibility of the schools. Naturally, schools play an important role in helping children learn to read, but Trelease suggests that parents should also recognize and embrace the role they play in developing their child’s love of reading.

Once parents have been inspired to start reading to their kids, they can check out Trelease’s extensive bibliography of recommended books, which includes age-appropriate suggestions for reading material.

The author also runs an extensive website, www.trelease-on-reading.com, which includes resources for parents: lists of recommended books, suggestions for displaying books at home and profiles of some popular authors.

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