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The (lost?) art of reading aloud

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  August 15, 2013 07:56 AM

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reading to Liam.jpgThe other night, I was curled up with my 7-year-old reading Charlotte's Web aloud, and I thought: I've really missed this.

I read lots of chapter books aloud to my now 22- and 21-year-olds when they were young. We read many by E.B White, A.A. Milne and Roald Dahl. We read the Harry Potter books through about the fourth, when they were old enough to read them on their own. We read the Chronicles of Narnia and so many others. It was wonderful.

When the next child got to the reading-chapter-book age, well, she wasn't a fan of much fiction besides Junie B. Jones--once we made it through those, we petered out. My next child was impatient and didn't like to be read to, and since I was out of practice I didn't push it. That was my bad.

But Liam loves to be read to. He is terribly farsighted and has had a difficult time with the written word because of this; he loves books, but has always preferred being read to than reading. He is also wonderfully snuggly. So we are digging out the old favorites and lying down together at night.

Sadly, when I talk to parents, not many of them read chapter books to their kids. Lots of them read picture books when their children are small--but once they get past those, the reading aloud stops. I understand why that happens, I guess; reading chapter books aloud takes patience, perseverance and a willingness to do some play-acting as you read (my favorite was making up voices for Roald Dahl's BFG). Why bother when you can turn on the TV?

But as Liam and I read together, I'm remembering everything wonderful about reading aloud. Obviously, there is the snuggling and togetherness--there is nothing that beats that. And as I explain words and we talk about what we are reading, I'm struck by just how much it engages and challenges him. He wants to know what happens next; he is completely caught up. I am giving him the gift not just of some of my favorite books of all time, but the gift of wanting books  to be part of his life. These days, that's not a gift to be taken for granted. 

Also...as I made up voices for the geese at Zuckerman's farm, I remembered what fun that could be. We grownups need chances to be silly and use our imaginations too.

So if you haven't done it already, curl up and read chapter books with your child. There are some wonderful ideas in this list from Eric Wecks--and I'd love to hear yours. What books have you read with your children?



Is there something you'd like me to write about? Leave me a message on my Facebook page--and "like" the page for links to all my MD Mama blogs as well as my blogs on Thriving and Huffington Post. 

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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