Reading aloud to build literacy

Not that we needed more encouragement to carry on with our family reading adventure and daily read-aloud, but we came across an article today that provided some further validation for us. Maybe it will for you too.

The article, from July 2015, highlights a University of Santa Cruz study which provides further evidence that reading aloud is “…the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding, which form the basis for learning how to read.” A key reason is that in the process of writing a book an author typically makes use of many more uncommon or interesting vocabulary words than even highly educated parents would use in everyday conversation with each other or with their children. It seems the need to communicate quickly and efficiently in everyday conversation causes us to pass over some of the more interesting words in our vocabularies.

This contrast between written word and everyday conversation holds true even if you are only reading storybooks aloud. The study’s author, Dominic Massaro who is a professor emeritus in psychology, considered a database of 112 popular picture books and compared the number of “uncommon” words used in those books and found that “…picture books are two to three times as likely as parent-child conversations to include a word that isn’t among the 5,000 most common English words.”

These findings certainly resonate with us. I believe that reading aloud at a young age did wonders for our oldest, who continues to impress us with her command of vocabulary, her flair for writing, and her interesting turns of phrase. I must admit, by forcing me to read words and expressions I don’t normally use in conversation, our time spent reading aloud has helped my vocabulary and writing as well.

You can find the article here.

And you can find the research paper referenced in the article here.


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