Impacts of Parents Reading Aloud on Educational Success

Since my 3 kids just went back to school today, timing is good to share some interesting facts on how parents reading aloud to their children impacts their future success throughout their schooling.

My information comes straight from The Read Aloud Handbook by literacy expert Jim Trelease.  Mr. Trelease first published his book in 1982 and has traveled across the USA and internationally advocating for the simplest, yet most powerful, improvement our educational system could ask for – making reading a pleasurable activity that starts at home with children’s first teachers, their parents.

Trelease points out that human beings repeat activities that we find enjoyable and gain pleasure from.  Thus when children are introduced to books at a very young age as items that entertain, provide fun, offer special one on one time with parents while cuddled up on their laps – then they will learn to love books first.   Later on, they will learn to love reading.

Parents sometimes believe that children can be too young for reading if they can’t sit still for a whole book.   Not So. Trelease points out that language fluency is acquired through speech, the reading of a book to a newborn, toddler or preschooler is not all about the finishing of a book, it’s about exposing a child to vocabulary so they can master language.   So don’t get hung up on not reading cover to cover.

Another important point to realize is that children can comprehend at a much higher level through listening than through reading.   Children who enter school having been read to from their early years will already have an advantage of having been exposed to vocabulary words through listening.  The vocabulary in an average picture book has many words that simply don’t come up in daily conversation at home.  Just imagine the conversations you have each day with your children for a moment, now take a moment to go pick up one of the books on their shelf.   You get the point.  Children who come to school with a larger vocabulary also understand oral lessons more fully and since most instruction in the early years is provided orally, they are at a distinct advantage in that way as well.

Based on these facts, parents can add in reading chapter books to young children beginning around 4 or 5 years old.  As long as the children are interested, and enjoying the books, they can be a wonderful addition to picture books for daily reading.  Kids are excited about the idea of chapter books, and will benefit from the listening skills, the incredibly rich vocabulary, the creativity that’s sparked through mentally imagining the characters, setting and plot and again, the pleasure that’s associated with the story they share with their parents.

Bottom line…

Children from homes with the highest number of books have the highest reading scores. Just like states with the highest number of horses have the greatest number of rodeo stars.  And yes – it goes without saying that generally kids in lower socio-economic levels have fewer print materials in the home, less materials in their public libraries and thus enter school at a disadvantage because of these facts.   BUT it certainly doesn’t have to be that way!

Children whose parents want them to become readers, must provide books (visiting the library is free) and read to their children.  No reading parents in your household?  Get books on CD or tape and turn on the closed captioning on your TV (which is a plus for all kids).

Here is some added information I found fascinating.

In Finland, where the adult literacy rate is 99%  (UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2007a)

  • There is NO national testing system
  • 90% of children are in childcare by age 1
  • more than 50% of Finnish TV for kids is closed captioned

The difference that parents and care providers make by simply reading aloud and exposing kids to print is profound.

Want to see more great information as well as slides from Trelease’s lectures and downloadable flyers for use with parents and teachers?  Visit

Happy Reading!

Cathy Eads

Usborne Books and More Educational Consultant

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