Reading Aloud Builds Better Readers

The simple act of reading aloud can be a powerful way to help children develop the necessary skills for school, work, and life.

It’s hard to believe that some children still struggle to read in schools today.

According to the Council of Early Childhood (2014), 34 percent of children entering school lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read. If these children are not proficient in reading skills by fourth grade, it’s likely they will not be successful in school and are at greater risk to drop out.

“Approximately 8,000 high school students drop out of school every day, many because of reading difficulties.” (Pew Research Center 2014)

Anyone can make a difference by picking up a book and reading aloud to a child today.

According to Reading is Fundamental, there is a literacy crisis in America. Literacy begins in childhood and unless children learn the necessary foundational skills, illiteracy compounds each year. Only 60 percent of parents with children ages 0-5 years report reading to their children on a daily basis.

Children in homes with no books are at a disadvantage when they start school, and struggle to keep up. Studies show that only 37 percent of high school graduates are at or above reading level (RIF 2017).

The Reading Rockets website offers a wealth of research-based reading strategies, and reports that reading aloud to develop reading skills starting in infancy is one of the most important things that families can do for their children.

Learning to read is much more than learning a set of skills in school. A whole foundation is built over the first few years of life, beginning with the child’s first teachers, his or her parents. Build the foundation with some quality time with a book. Young children learn language first by listening to spoken words. Listening to adults read books aloud introduces children to new words and builds their vocabulary. Early language skills and reading skills are interconnected.

The more often that families read and talk to the children the more likely that the children will be successful in school, and in life.


There are simple strategies that families can do with their children and grandchildren at home (Reading Rockets 2017):


  • Start reading to babies before they ask about books. Young children love to sit in adults’ laps and listen to a variety of stories. This shared time not only fosters a love for reading but develops important emotional attachments between child and caregiver.
  • Allow your child to ask questions about the story before, during, and after reading the book. Studies show that children become actively involved if they can ask and respond to questions from the adult reader. Conversations about what’s happening in the story foster new vocabulary and improve language skills.
  • Encourage these conversations by asking younger children to name objects in pictures such as a fire truck or rocking chair. Ask older children to recall the names of the main characters in the story.
  • Find the reading in everyday things. Share how to read favorite recipes with children, as you prepare snacks or dinner together. Point out road signs that direct you to the local library or grocery store. Share the grocery list while shopping, and ask the children to help you collect the items needed for meals.
  • Visit the library with your family on a regular basis. If you have trouble getting to the local library during business hours, use your library’s online system to download free books on your tablet or smart phone to read. Most online systems have a variety of the newest children’s books to borrow, and some are narrated to allow the reader to follow along independently.
  • Surround children with lots of books. Start a library of books by asking friends and family to purchase books for your child’s birthday or holiday celebration. Children are more likely to read often if their eyes fall on an intriguing title on their bookshelf. Allow them time to become engrossed in an interesting topic.
  • Convey positive messages about your love for reading. Whether you enjoy sports magazines or the latest novel, your excitement about reading can be contagious. Allow children to see you reading on a regular basis, such as the daily newspaper or a monthly magazine. Share your interest in reading by talking with your family about the latest book that you read.    

Books stir the senses and inspire the imagination. “To be literate is to be on the pathway to becoming a lifelong learner, and literacy is essential if we're to have educated and productive individuals” (Reading Rockets). The rewards of good reading skills serve children for a lifetime.

Resources and references

Pew Research Center. 2014. The Rising Cost of Not Going to College. Pew Research Center. 

Council on Early Childhood. 2014. “Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice.” Pediatrics 134(2): 404–409. National Center for Education Statistics. DOI:10.1542/peds.2014-1384

The Nation’s Report Card. “A First Look: 2013 Mathematics and Reading: National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4 and 8.” Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education. 

Reading is Fundamental. n.d. “Literacy Facts & Stats.” Reading is Fundamental. 

Reading Rockets

Reading is Fundamental 


Contact Information

Jacqueline Amor-Zitzelberger
  • Extension Educator
Phone: 814-765-7878