You know how important it is to read to your child and you've diligently read bed time stories to your kids since they were tiny. But now they're reading Harry Potter on their own, do you really need to keep reading to them? At what point do you draw the line and just let them get on with it?
By Year Two or Three (around the age of seven to nine), children can usually read fluently enough to enjoy reading independently and they should be encouraged to do so. A child’s reading age, in general, catches up with their listening age around the age of 13.
This does not mean, however, that parents should stop reading aloud to their children altogether.
According to Scholastic’s ‘Kids & Family Reading Report’, only 17 percent of parents of children aged nine to 11 read aloud to their kids, yet 83 percent of children aged six to 17 said being read to was something they either loved or liked a lot.
Why you should read to your older child:
- It allows them to enjoy books that are above their reading age – ones with complicated themes, structure or vocabulary, for example. It lets them enjoy the flow of the story without getting stuck on the details.
- It improves their vocabulary.
- You can model fluent reading to them, including dialogue, pace, phrasing and expression.
- It can expose them to new authors, styles, genres, themes and world views
- It stimulates conversation, giving you the opportunity to discuss different scenarios, difficult subjects, personal opinions etc. This is to be welcomed during those difficult adolescent years where communication between parent and teenage child often breaks down.
- It develops a culture between you and your child as you share the same literary references – books you both love, characters you are both familiar with, comic scenes and in-jokes you can recount and bounce off each other.
- It gives you important one-on-one time together and physical closeness.
So when should you stop reading to your child? When they have had enough. This will happen quite naturally around the age of 13 ... but you can still enjoy reading poetry, plays or sketches together. Or just enjoy quiet time, reading independently, side-by-side on a lazy afternoon.
For inspiration on what to read to your child, try the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards shortlist, or the Dymock’s Top 51 Kids list, which is voted for by kids for kids.