I recently stumbled upon Mem Fox’s book, ‘Reading Magic’ at Dymocks. It had been discounted from $10.00 to $1.50 and my heart sank a little bit … I hoped it wasn’t a sign that Mem’s influence was declining as she has been a leading advocate for ‘reading aloud from birth’! I unashamedly support and celebrate Mem’s heartfelt plea for parents to read aloud to children from birth and to maintain the practice as long, as possible.
This past week my 11 year old son and I sat together and enjoyed a range of famous speeches reimagined by Gavin Aung Than in Zen Pencils. Through our reading of Roosevelt’s, The Man in the Arena, we asked “What is a strong man? … What it means to spend oneself on a worthy cause?” … more importantly, we were inspired together.
The benefits of this one sustained practice through childhood, by adults (parents especially) is overwhelming and impacts all areas of a child’s development including; relationship, bonding, questioning, concentration, language development, letter & whole word recognition, contextualized reading, vocabulary building, vocal play, development of empathy, intonation, knowledge of generic conventions (genres), imagination … to name only a few.
The 2016 Scholastic Australian Kids & Family Reading Report, revealed that an overwhelming majority of children (86%) love/like being read books aloud at home —the main reason being because it is a special time with parents. Just over half of children aged 0–5 (57%) are read aloud to at home 5–7 days a week; the frequency sadly declines for children aged 6–8 to 41%, and continues to decrease with age.
Of those children aged 6–8 whose parents no longer read books aloud at home, most did not want their parents to stop.
The research reveals that there are three main drivers that are among the most powerful predictors of reading frequency for children aged 6–17; a child’s reading enjoyment, the child’s knowledge of their reading level … but the number one factor by the largest of margins? You guessed it; How often a child is read books aloud.
Can I extend the challenge for all families to assess together this critical opportunity for meaningful and intimate engagement (yes, even with our teenagers) … Mums, Dads, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles … 15 minutes a day has a huge impact! I promise to do the same.