Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Great Parents Who Read to Their Kids & the Difference Between Listening and Reading

It's no accident that that the NCES study (posted here) found that having > 100 books in the home was the strongest predictor of whether a child was a good reader in the 3rd grade. But throughout history, there have been some wonderful parents who cultivated their family reading time and inspired their children.

Too often we make the mistake of stopping our evening or bed time read-togethers as our children get older and can read for themselves. But if we do, we'll miss out on wonderful opportunities for sharing, deepening family 'culture', and inspiration.

Marie Curie's father was a teacher who suffered greatly under Russian-occupied Warsaw. He lost his job and his families finances were in ruin, but every Saturday night, from seven to nine, he read and recited Polish prose and poetry with his family, a time that delighted all of his children.

Robert Frost lived a simple life on a farm in New Hampshire, but his evenings were filled with his mother's read alouds of Ossian, Poe, Wordsworth, Longfellow, and Bryant. In fact, you often can't get far in biographies of gifted or talented individuals without finding strong references reading and the powerful influences of home environment on talent development.

In Developing Talent in Young People (here), family read alouds were mentioned frequently, but particularly among the families that nurtured world famous mathematicians and scientists (other groups were Olympic swimmers, professional tennis players, concert pianists, famous sculptors).

The advantage of being read to - is that conceptually children (or young adults) can be exposed to concepts, literary patterns, and words and word patterns far in advance of actual reading ability. In addition, read-alouds help bring drama and voice to text (modeling active reading for kids) and imagery, in addition to opening up many opportunities for shared fun, laughter, and probing discussions.

The figure below is from a study that found that the pathways for understanding text by reading and by listening in adult learners are different. Researchers also found that at least in this group of competent readers, listening required more intellectual 'work' when complex sentence structure was used, than reading.

Different Pathways for Comprehending Text - Listening vs. Reading


  1. This is pure gold! Thanks for publishing it.

  2. Hi, Stuart! Thanks a lot!

    Fernette and Brock