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Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

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My son, Matt, reading to my four grandchildren.

Reading aloud to my four children is one of the fondest memories I have of their growing up years.  They are all adults now with their own families and busy lives, but I have wonderful memories of cuddling on the couch with them, reading stories together, watching their eyes light up as we traveled to other lands and other times through story.

As a teacher, reading to my children seemed a natural part of the parenting process.  Even when they were babies, they would sit on my lap as we enjoyed books like Pat the Bunny.  As they grew older, we graduated to story books.  Some were fairy tales, some were Bible stories, but all were chances to bond together over printed word. They had their favorites that they asked to be read to them over and over and over. We went to our local library’s story time and listened to books read aloud that we would then books that we checked out to take home to enjoy again and again.

However, it’s a common belief that when a child begins reading on his or her own, there is no longer a need for parents to read aloud to their children.  I confess that I held that same view until I met Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. He was advertised as a guest speaker at our local library.  The title of his book sounded intriguing, so I went to hear what he had to say.

I am so glad that I did.

Jim Trelease’s idea that reading aloud can and should continue long after a child is an independent reader powerfully impacted both my parenting approach to reading as well as my own teaching  philosophy.  His belief was that children will be excited about reading if we are excited about reading.  They will think it’s fun if we think it’s fun. That evening, Trelease read aloud to us, an adult audience, the Bernard Waber classic, Ira Sleeps Over. He read it with energy, enthusiasm and wonderful vocal animation.  That’s all it took.  I was hooked!

Read-alouds became a fixed part of our family routine.  We cried together through books like Where the Red Fern Grows, laughed together through books like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and experienced the  thrills and adventure of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  I am happy to report that I have raised children who love to read.

Now, as a grandmother, I am enjoying reading some of those same familiar stories to my six grandchildren.  What is even more rewarding to me is that my children are reading to their children; the torch has been passed!

I have never forgotten the way Jim Trelease closed his evening talk, reading from a poem by Stickland Gillian, titled “The Reading Mother.”

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

About the Author: Kathy H. is a tutor at Oxford Tutoring who enjoys tutors because she can make a difference in the lives of her students.  Her goal is to make learning fun by teaching to each student’s unique method of learning.  For fun, she likes to read, binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, serve at her church, and spend time with her grandchildren.

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Oxford Tutoring specializes in K-12 tutoring in English, mathematics, science and test preparation. We provide skill building and homework help in private, one-on-one sessions coordinated with our student’s classroom programs, but focused on the way in which each student learns. Working to better each student’s academic success, Oxford Tutoring personalizes our tutoring approach to best meet the education needs of our students.

15 thoughts on “Thank You, Jim Trelease! – The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

  1. Thank you for this important and beautifully written post. I reblogged it. Jim Trelease has done more to open the doors of reading than anyone. Because of finding his book as a parent, becoming a preschool teacher, and then a champion at reading aloud, I now make a difference. I am lucky to included in the latest edition of his book. With thanks to you, -Jennie-

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  2. Thank you for this excellent piece of literature. I read it aloud myself, having five little grand-babies with a sixth due at Christmas. The words rolled off my tongue with delight, and I can’t wait to share it with them. Delightful!

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  3. Lovely! I agree with Jim Trelease. We are never too old to be read aloud to. The poem he finished the night with is brilliant. I hadn’t heard it before. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  4. Reblogged this on lovehappinessandpeace and commented:
    *******

    My Father had a good library, and he had built a small one for Us, his Children. Some of them were what We called ‘Jolly-Jump’Up’s’ which stood out upon opening.

    I do not recall my parents having ‘Read out’ to Us, though they had ‘told’ Us those stories.

    My Sister carried on that tradition.

    ***

    I have seen, and continue to see, No books of anything other than School/College stuff in homes now.

    Education in India has become a question of ‘Mugging up,’ and more of it. This trend started about 40 years ago, I would say.

    Even when the Child returns from School, it is packed off almost Immediately to Tution and Coaching classes. Children do Not know what Play is.

    ***

    But Earlier, Parents, and Grand parents in particular, would tell Children stories at their ‘Knee.’ These were not just for Entertainment, but also covered Morals and History.

    That has Totally Disappeared. Which is a Tragedy. And the lack of those values learnt the knees has led to Lack of Concern for Others.

    ***

    Reading to Children, Spending Time with them, and Teaching them Values, Morals and History, has to Come Back.

    *******

    Liked by 1 person

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