The other night my friend Kathryn (“Mrs. L”), a middle school Language Arts teacher in California, texted me to ask if I could recommend a good book for her to read aloud to her class. I excitedly responded to her text with an extremely long and probably overwhelming email full of suggestions. As I typed, I smiled, remembering my own middle school days when I happily rested my head on my desk and listened as my favorite teacher Mr. W read Where the Red Fern Grows.

There’s a lot of information out there on the importance of reading to babies and small children, and I’m a firm believer that reading to small children is hugely beneficial. But I’m also a firm believer that reading aloud continues to be important as kids get older and that “storytime” shouldn’t end once kids become independent readers.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Kids listen at a higher level than they read. According to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, while a kid may be an independent reader, he or she often has the capacity to understand more. Being read to may also allow some students with reading and learning difficulties the chance to experience stories at a higher level.
  • Reading aloud builds a listener’s vocabulary and language skills. A good plot will encourage a young reader to want to improve his or her own reading skills.
  • Reading aloud provides a good source for discussion as you experience a book together. Do you watch any TV shows together? Try reading a book together instead!
  • And lastly, reading aloud is just plain fun. Who doesn’t want to be read to? I see dozens of adults every day who check out audio books from my library. At storytime I see parents who are equally as absorbed in the stories as their children.

And in twenty years, there will be some book-loving grownup remembering how awesome it was to just rest her head on her desk and listen to Mrs. L. read.

Caitlin Corless is a youth services librarian at the Essex Free Library in Essex, VT. An avid reader of middle grade and young adult literature, she is also a middle grade fiction writer and a member of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Committee.

Photo credit: Glenn Moody, 2012

One response to “Middle Ground: Storytime Isn’t Just for Little Ones

  1. My mom read to me every night, long after I had learned to read myself, until at least 12 or so. When I was assigned “Great Expectations” in freshman honors English, (not my favorite work I’ll admit) she ended up reading most of it to me when I struggled to stay engaged with the text. 🙂

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