Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reading aloud ... the best graduation present!

Ok, let me preface this post by saying ... I have just come off of a 3-day long celebratory weekend.  It was my oldest child's high school graduation AND 18th birthday all rolled into 3 exciting, emotional and proud days!  And maybe not so surprising (though it was to me), it was a time for A LOT of self reflection. 
I look at the young man before me as he enters adulthood and the next phase of his life and I think ...
"Did I prepare him enough?"
"Did I do too much/too little?"
"Would I have done this or that differently had I known better?"

Preschool Graduation - circa 2000

So I reflect back.  I think back to Kindergarten - his progress report stating, among other things, that he was "quietly distracted" (a.k.a. "a daydreamer") and not focusing.  Sitting down to practice letters or doing math sheets in those lower elementary years were tough.  But I knew he had the capacity to focus -- as his MANY Lego creations could attest.  So we tried different homework settings, attempted to limit distractions and sometimes brought out the dreaded timer. 
Do I know if those were the right things to do?  No, I don't know for sure.  But I do know that things started clicking for him by 3rd grade.  His internal drive to want to learn and succeed started to kick in, though he was still my little daydreamer.
But in all the time prior to and through elementary school, the one thing I KNOW I did right ... was reading aloud to him (and his siblings).  I can't even say why I knew this was the right thing to do at the time, since he was my first child. I wasn't a preschool teacher then, didn't look up research on it ... it just felt right, and was a calming way to end the day. 
So it is reassuring to find out that it WAS the right thing to do for my son.  Reading aloud is instrumental in helping a child achieve long-term learning success.  Reading aloud to young children doesn't "teach them how to read", but rather ... fosters a LOVE of reading to carry them through their life.  I can't think of a better gift to give! 

The Read-Aloud Handbook

And so it happens that this summer I'm participating with other bloggers in a book study on the importance of reading aloud to children.  I am thrilled with the book that Vanessa Levin at Pre-K Pages chose, which is “The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition” by Jim Trelease.  This new edition just came out, and will provide parents, caregivers and teachers with insights on the value of reading aloud, tips on ways to read aloud, and (YAY!) a list of great read aloud books!  What a great gift to give to a new parent or teacher ... or even a seasoned one, as it reaffirms the importance of reading aloud.
I have only read the introduction so far ... and I am already excited!  In it, Mr. Trelease quotes a former college admissions director when talking about SAT prep to parents, saying ...

"The best SAT preparation course in the world is to read to your children in bed when they're little.  Eventually, if that's a wonderful experience for them, they'll start to read themselves." ("How to Make a Better Student", Time, October 1998)

You can click on the button above to learn more about the book study.  You can follow along, with or without the book, as the bloggers participating will summarize chapters and provide their own insight and experience.  


From Unfocused to College-bound

So, how did my "quietly distracted" son fair through his high school years? 
[WARNING: Shameless bragging ahead]
He is an Eagle Scout, has been on the honor roll all 4 years, member of the National Honor Society, leader on the Robotics team, played the clarinet in honors band, graduated in the top 10% of his class and was recognized as a Distinguished Scholar in the graduation ceremony.  How's that for a daydreamer who can't focus?!
With younger sister on Graduation Day
I take credit for NONE of this ... except for, perhaps ... loving him, supporting him and reading to him!
I think back to trying to read the first "Harry Potter" book to him when he was around 6 years old.  I'm sure I'll have many who disagree with me, but I found that to be a difficult book to read aloud to him.  With all the long and difficult to pronounce names ... we both wound up losing interest.  So we put it aside for the time being and read other things.  Working through "Magic Tree House" and "Geronimo Stilton" to name a few.
Being so busy in high school unfortunately does not leave enough time for enjoyment reading.  My son has quite the collection of books he would "like to have time to read" over the past 4 years.  He finished up with classes last week and guess what he spent a good part of the week doing?   Reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" ... of THIS, I couldn't be more proud!

Laura Eldredge is a teacher and curriculum coordinator at a NAEYC accredited early childhood program in Connecticut. She also co-founded the website The SEEDS Network, as a way to provide early childhood professionals with ideas and resources that support them in their quest to provide quality care and education to our youngest learners. She blogs at


  1. Thanks for the shout out Laura, we're excited about the book study and glad you will be joining us!

    1. So glad to talk about the summer book study again ... I started reading the introduction, and the thought for the post came to me instantly just coming off of graduation. :-)

  2. You should know that not all kids like to be read aloud to. I have 6 kids. My first 3 were avid readers and second 3 not at all and the second bunch did not love being read to.

    1. Perhaps not. I would agree not all children fit into one mold or are all the same in all aspects of their interests and learning - including reading. But I would argue that reading is so important in so many aspects of a person's life; that anything we as parents and teachers can do to help make reading an enjoyable experience for children at a young age is worthwhile - such as reading aloud to them.

  3. Thank you for this post Laura. I can so relate! My oldest of five just graduated too and I felt the same and asked myself the same questions. What I love is that she still enjoys being read to:) We don't do it daily with her anymore, but she will sit in sometimes when my husband is reading to the others at night. I have other kids who don't like to be read to as much, but as we make it a regular part of their routine it has ALWAYS caught on and they enjoy it. Love this post and am excited to learn more about this book!

    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Trisha! I have only just started reading this book and I know I will enjoy it! Congrats on your daughters graduation! It's a big milestone. 😊


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