Why You Should Never Stop Reading To Your Kids

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(Johnny McClung/Unsplash)
(Johnny McClung/Unsplash)

Editor's note: February 5 is World Read Aloud Day. When we saw this date approaching, we decided to unearth one of our all-time favorite Cog essays by Sharon Brody, and turn it into an on-air commentary. You can read the original post, which published in Jan. 2017, here

Read Aloud Day? Okay, it’s a start. But I would contend that reading aloud is a way of life.

My kids are grown, but somewhere in a parallel universe where the clock stands still, they’re by my side — I'm trying to remember what accent I used last time for which character — and we’re turning the pages, together.

Picture books, novels, poems, and so many “fact books” … such was our infinite soundtrack.

Snuggled under blankets with stuffed animals in bed, or huddled with our peanut butter sandwiches around the kitchen table — there you’d find us, day after day, year after year, immersed in other worlds. The written words drifting through the air.

You probably assume this routine fizzled out by the time my sons were better readers than me, and taller. But, nope. Assume again.

Piling onto the couch to listen and read, even with those long skinny teenage legs fighting for position, that gave us the comfort of cozying up — well after the guys had reached the ages when so much as a wave from your mom in public is the most horrible thing that ever happened to you.

We shared laughter, heartaches, questions and surprises. We smashed to smithereens the concept of “reading level."

This experience helped make my sons the readers and listeners and thinkers and dreamers they are — and helped forge unbreakable bonds. The older the kids became, and the further they traveled from the land of pretend, the more they seemed to appreciate the oasis of the read-aloud.

So, here’s my unsolicited parenting advice: extend the ritual as much as you can. The magic of being read to does not disappear just because it’s no longer a practical necessity.

But don’t take my word for it. The experts agree. To name just a few of the benefits: reading aloud to kids — including big kids — helps them beef up their vocabulary, improve attention, strengthen cognition, enhance empathy, and reinforce the value of shared family time.

Time has this pesky habit of moving on. My babies are men. Reading aloud? That’s something we used to do. But, having done it? That, was the best.

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This segment aired on February 5, 2020.


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Sharon Brody News Anchor
Sharon Brody is the voice of WBUR's weekend mornings. On Saturdays and Sundays, she anchors the news for Weekend Edition and other popular programs.



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