Reading Aloud: Trouble-Shooting Tips

The more I read about reading, literacy, and growing readers, the more I realize just how important reading aloud to our children actually is.  Why is it so important?

dad reading photo

Photo by jeremytarling

Why Reading Aloud is So Important

According to,

“Children who are read aloud to by parents get a head start in language and literacy skills and go to school better prepared.”

A head start in language and literacy skills?  That’s awesome.  Going to school better prepared?  Sounds good to me!

“…Reading that bedtime story may not only entertain and soothe Johnny, it may also develop his vocabulary, improve his ability to learn to read, and – perhaps most important – foster a lifelong love of books and reading.”

Help vocabulary?  Improve his ability to learn to read?  Foster a lifelong love of books and reading?  Wow!

“Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report ‘Becoming a Nation of Readers,’ ‘the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.’”

The single most important activity for success in reading?  I’m on board.

In his book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease explains,

“Beyond the building of attention span and vocabulary, something else is built during these one-on-one hours with a child…when they share their secrets, the chemistry that occurs is called ‘bonding’—and that’s what really holds families together.” Read-Aloud Handbook, p. 40 (2013)

As a former teacher and a parent, I can attest to the educational and emotional benefits of reading aloud.  Reading aloud helps kids develop longer attention spans as well as helping them become better readers, writers, spellers and thinkers.  And we get an added bonus: a special bonding and closeness grows when we read to our children! Campaign is promoting a campaign right now that encourages everyone to read aloud 15 minutes a day for 21 days to a child this month.   I’ve been reading about it for several weeks, but wanted to share more about it with you here.  The idea is simple.  Read aloud to your child 15 minute a day for 21 days.  Sign up online to show a commitment to the campaign, as well as to spread the word about reading aloud being an important habit to develop.  This infographic explains more reasons why reading aloud is so important. Infographic


Let’s Get Personal

Although my family has already established a habit of reading aloud to our children, and I am a huge advocate of both reading and reading aloud, I feel like I need to disclose a few things to be completely honest with my readers:

1. We don’t read-aloud every single night. Sometimes we have a late activity, and our kids are getting to bed late, and we choose sleep over reading aloud. Sometimes, we have friends/family over and we send the kids to bed with goodnight kisses and hugs and no story since the adults want to visit.

2. When we do read aloud, it isn’t always for a full 15 minutes. This happens frequently.  We are often running a little late in our bedtime routine, and we read, but only for 5-10 minutes.  I feel rushed, and I’m not as relaxed as I would be if I had more time, which leads to me not enjoying the experience as much as I should.  I’m sure my kids can sense that I’m not fully relaxed, and they probably don’t enjoy it as much as they should.

Why don’t we read aloud every single night for a full 15 minutes?  Because life sometimes gets in the way.  It’s OK.  Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.  We’re not perfect and we shouldn’t try to be, but we can strive to do better since we know reading aloud is so important.

I’ve been inspired by the Read-Aloud 15 Campaign, and I’m going to try to increase our read-aloud duration and frequency this month.  But how will I do that when I’m already having problems fitting our read-aloud time in each day?  I keep coming up with excuses, and if I’m coming up with excuses, it’s likely that you are, too.

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Reading Aloud Troubleshooting Tips:  How do we make it happen?

Problem:  But I’m not sure how to start.

Solution: Sign up

I’m going to actually sign up for the campaign.  Link here.  Although I have posted about the campaign on social media, I haven’t actually signed up.  Today, I am going to sign up.  Part of my hesitation to sign up was due to the fact that they encourage everyone who signs up to post pictures of their daily read-alouds online.  I don’t like to post pictures of my kids on social media.  And since we are reading longer novels with both of our boys right now, I figured it wouldn’t be worth posting.  Now, I’m just going to forget about that, and focus on the reading.  If I post, I post, but I’m not going to stress about it.  It’s not too late.  There are still 21 evenings left in October—just barely!  (But really, you could start anytime, and don’t sweat it if you can’t fit them all in this month.)

If you haven’t been reading aloud to your kids at all, it is never too late to start.  Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary aged, middle school age, even high school aged kids all will enjoy a read-aloud.  If you have a little one, go to the library and pick out a stack of picture books and dive in.  If you have an older child, discuss together what book you might want to read together.  I’ve included a list of great read-alouds here.  If your child has a hard time sitting still for long periods of time, you can work up to the 15 minutes.  Start with just a few minutes at a time.  And when you read aloud, make it fun! graphic

Problem:  But I don’t know when I will fit reading aloud into our day!  We’re already so busy!

Solution: Schedule it

Even though I know reading aloud is beneficial, sometimes we get started on our bedtime routine too late in the evening and we run out of time.  I’m going to talk to my husband and sons about the schedule so that we can start our read-aloud time earlier each night.  If I know that we have 15 minutes, I won’t be tempted to cut our read-aloud time short or omit it entirely when it starts getting past “bedtime.”  Some families read earlier in the day, or even at a mealtime.  Making it a priority and setting aside time to make it happen will help to accomplish your goal.

If you have more than one child, you have a choice to make.  You can either pick a book and read it aloud to everyone, or you can try to schedule time to read aloud with each child individually.  You may decide to mix and match and sometimes do one and sometimes do the other.  That’s ok.  Do what works best for you and your family.

Problem: But what if I don’t remember to read aloud?

Solution: Be accountable

I’m going to print off this check-list and keep one in each of my son’s bedrooms.  I tend to do better actually getting things done when I have a box to check off.  We are going to try to read aloud for 15 minutes every night for 21 nights.  We will be able to see if we are accomplishing our goal by watching our progress on the checklist.

21 Day Challenge Graphic

Problem:  But I don’t know what to read aloud!

Solution:  You can read anything, but some books definitely make better read-alouds than others.

Follow these links to find great read-alouds:

You can also always ask for recommendations at your local library.

Problem:  But we are already reading aloud books to our kids, do we need to start something new and special for this challenge?

Solution: Keep reading

My husband is reading The Fellowship of the Ring with our 12 year old and as it is such a long book, they started it before the challenge, and will likely be still reading it when the challenge is over.  But that’s ok.  They can keep reading it throughout the 21 days.  My 9 (almost 10) year old son and I are reading Fablehaven, and although we are enjoying it, neither of us is hooked by the story yet.  I think this is in a large part due to the fact that we’ve only been reading about 5-10 minutes each night and haven’t really gotten into it yet.  I’m hoping that by reading 15 minutes every night, we will get into it and really start loving it.  (He likes action, and I think the action is coming soon!)

Problem:  But I’m tired in the evenings, and sometimes I’m ready to just put the kids to bed and have some time to relax.

Solution: Enjoy the special time together and let yourself relax

A huge added benefit of reading aloud one on one with a child is the bonding that occurs during the read-aloud session.  As we make reading aloud a priority, we are demonstrating to our child that he is important and loved and valued.  Many great conversations have come out of shared read-aloud times with my boys.  Questions brought on by the book we are reading have led to deep discussions.  Closeness comes with snuggling together in a cozy spot.  Take the time to read aloud and just enjoy that special time together with your child. graphic

I hope you consider signing up for the 21 day challenge.  It takes 21 days to make something a habit, and reading aloud is sure a good habit to have.  Think of all of the benefits you and your child will enjoy, just from sharing books together.

Happy Reading!


Trelease, Jim.  The Read-Aloud Handbook.  New York:  Penguin.  2013.  Print.