How reading aloud confers cognitive, emotional, and social benefits.
In her heartfelt first book, Gurdon, children’s book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal, makes an earnest, but unfortunately repetitive, case for reading aloud. Drawing on her experiences of nightly reading to her five children, scientific studies, interviews, and anecdotes, the author argues that when one person reads to another, “a miraculous alchemy takes place” in which “the ordinary stuff of life—a book, a voice, a place to sit and a bit of time” transforms “into astonishing fuel for the heart, the mind, and the imagination.” Children who are read to show “a quantifiable difference in brain function” compared with children deprived of this activity, according to many pediatricians. Based on such studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that reading daily to young children “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships” and, furthermore, “builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.” Gurdon urges parents to put down phones and iPads in favor of books, underscoring the difference between listening to a story and watching it on a screen. When children follow a story on video, researchers have found “the decoupling of vision, imagery, and language.” Well-versed in children’s literature, Gurdon cites more than 100 books that have the potential to build vocabulary and impart “vicarious emotional experiences.” In The Story of Babar, for example—which takes under seven minutes to read—the child “will see tenderness and catastrophe, fear and comfort, pride and anger, death, marriage, sorrow, and joy.” Besides developing language facility, empathy, and cultural literacy, reading aloud creates a deep bond between reader and listener, sweeping them together “in a lovely neurochemical tsunami.” “When we read to other people,” she writes, “we show them that they matter to us; that we want to give our time and attention and energy in order to bring them something good.” An appendix lists six pages of suggested stories for reading aloud.
An inspiring argument for sharing the joys of reading.