Education Cheat Sheet: Why You Should Still Read To Your Child Through Middle School

Your keiki may be able to finish a book by his or herself, but there are seven other benefits you won't want to miss out on when it comes to reading together.
By Lynn Dagli, Hongwanji Mission School


Photo: Getty images

Most adults know that reading to a child is beneficial, yet in an August 2018 poll of 1,000 parents, only 15% read to their children daily. And although, movies and TV shows portray bedtime stories as an activity just for young children, reading to kids even in their middle school years has benefits.


Reading together helps:

1. Increase vocabulary.  Children are introduced to words not used in daily conversation. According to an Ohio State University study released in April, children who are read five books every day from birth to age five hear 1.4 million more words than other kids. This will also give them an advantage in school when they start learning verbal directions in the early years.


2. Develop listening skills, attention, patience and manners. Children are growing up with information and answers given to them in seconds by asking Siri or by ‘Googling’ it. Books let them develop their sense of wonder and imagination. It helps them pay attention to the words they are hearing, develop patience by waiting to see what happens in the story, and learn to ask questions during a pause in the story telling rather than interrupting the reader.


3. Create special time together. This is a time for you and your child. Wind down, relax and enter a different world together.


4. Comprehension. Jim Trelease, an educator and author of Read-Aloud Handbook says the reading level of a child doesn’t catch up to the listening level of the child until about the eighth grade. So read that seventh-grade level book to your fifth-grader. They can comprehend more than they can read.


5. Open doors to topics that wouldn’t normally come up. For example reading John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to your teenager could open up discussions about friendship, poverty, racism, hardship, death and more.


6. Children with reading challenges. By the time these children finish reading a complex paragraph, their comprehension could go out the window. Reading to them and/or taking turns reading could help them better understand and actually enjoy the story.


7. Make connections. Parents know it can be hard to connect with teens, who seem to communicate mostly in acronyms, SMS text language and slang. Reading text together helps you connect without having to really “talk” about anything in particular.


Parent Homework:

Here’s how you can get started or keep it going.

  • Schedule reading together daily. Make it part of your family’s everyday routines like brushing teeth.
  • Multiple kids and/or parenting solo? Gather the kids together. Older kids often still enjoy picture books and younger ones enjoy big-kid books.
  • Do you have a long commute or reading isn’t your thing? Try audio books. Grab a copy of the book from the library as well and have your child read along while you’re driving. If he or she gets motion sickness, even just listening to a book will expose your child to a rich vocabulary.
  • Waiting somewhere? Have a book bag in the car and switch titles out often.
  • Bored with your books? Go to the library together or have your child borrow from the school library.
  • Unplug. Rather than handing children a device to keep them occupied, hand them a book.
  • Do your best. Life happens, just remember to read together.


Lynn Dagli is a teacher at Hongwanji Mission School. She has an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and is a mother of a teen who was read to daily from infancy to 9 years of age. If she had known about this research back then, she wouldn’t have stopped at 9.