Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reading Aloud to Children: Modeling and Bonding

boy with book NAMC montessori reading aloud to children learning to readThis is a story I share with all my Montessori parents and colleagues when I hear them say “But my son / daughter / student is old enough to read alone. I don’t need to read to them aloud anymore”.

My son’s love for reading began the day he was born. As a young mother, I read novels as I nursed my infant son. As he grew older, I found myself unable to read while I nursed because he started playing with the pages. I read to him before nap time and bed time. I remember reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to him after dinner as he bounced in his “bouncy seat”. About the time he was 9 months old, I remember calling to complain to my mother in New Jersey, “All he does is bring me books to read. He doesn't want to play with his blocks or trucks. He just wants to read!” My mother wondered aloud what I was complaining about! I even remember hiding his favorite book, Steve and the Mighty Loader, high up on my bookshelf in hopes that I would get a break from reading it a dozen times a day!

We loved reading together. As he grew older, I remember snuggling up on his car bed with him to read. I can still picture him in his blanket sleepers, his hair wet from his bath, sucking his index finger, and waiting for me tell him a story. After I’d finish, I’d turn on his tape player and he’d fall asleep to tales from Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, and Thomas the Tank Engine. These were precious memories that bonded us together, mother and son.

When my son was in second grade, he was quite capable of reading on his own. I thought I was doing him a favor by letting him read to himself at bedtime.
After all, for as long as I could remember, I have loved falling asleep with a good book. He too, seemed quite content to crawl into bed and read for twenty minutes before I came to tuck him in bed and kiss him goodnight.

Reading Aloud to Children: Modeling and Bonding

But something happened to make me rethink that decision. We were doing some research together for a school project a few months after I stopped reading aloud to him. I was astonished to hear him stumbling over words that had come so easily to him before. He was omitting punctuation and reading without inflection. What had happened to my fluent reader?

I had to admit to myself that I had done a disservice to my son. Although he was perfectly capable of reading and comprehending on his own, by listening to me read he was learning the nuances of oral language – cadence, intonation, inflection, and pitch. He was learning the difference between the length of time between a comma and a period. He was learning to pronounce the difference between a declarative, exclamative, and interrogative statement. He was learning to make different characters sound different and distinguishable. He was learning to read!

I quickly resumed my position next to him on his bed and reintroduced myself as chief storyteller. And my son’s reading ability seemed to improve overnight!

Now, even though he’s in the 6th grade at his Montessori school, we still read aloud, though not at bedtime since that’s his time to read to himself. I usually read after my husband and I have finished dinner and we’re waiting for Nathaniel to finish eating. We read classic literature together; we’re currently reading Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. We also read books on growing up: Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul by Jack Canfield and Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard. Additionally, since we have a 40 minute commute to and from school, we listen to books on CD. In the last six months we've listened to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and Inkspell and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and are currently listening to Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.

I am pleased to have a son who carries a book with him wherever he goes: to Montessori school, to Grandma and Papa’s, to doctors’ appointments, even out to dinner. It is a comfort to know that he’ll never be alone as long as he has his books.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, November 1, 2007.


  1. I love this story, because I can so relate. I read to my baby sister, from day one and had her reading by age four. We found listening to books on tape by far better than radio! She's now 20 and is excelling in college, taking classes for students one year older. I don't think people realize how much reading to your children, boosts their I.Q.

  2. Thank you for sharing this positive story, Kristy!


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