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«PS 029 088 ED 448 866 Pankey, Janel Christine AUTHOR The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Pre-School Children. TITLE PUB DATE 2000-00-00 60p.; Master's ...»

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PS 029 088

ED 448 866

Pankey, Janel Christine


The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Pre-School Children.


PUB DATE 2000-00-00

60p.; Master's Thesis, Biola University.


Dissertations/Theses - Masters Theses (042)


MF01/PC03 Plus Postage.


Beginning Reading; Books; Childrens Literature; Emergent


Literacy; Language Skills; Parent Child Relationship;

*Parents as Teachers; *Preschool Children; Preschool Education; *Reading Aloud to Others; Research Needs; *Story Reading Shared Book Experience; Shared Reading


ABSTRACT Noting that reading aloud to preschool children significantly influences their reading development, this master's thesis examines the many benefits from reading aloud to preschoolers. The thesis reviews research indicating that when parents read aloud, they help their children learn vocabulary, complex sentence structure, and story structure.

Furthermore, by reading aloud, parents build their child's self-esteem, encourage curiosity about words, and introduce the pleasures of reading. The thesis identifies additional research showing that early readers experience more success in school than later readers. Children who have been read to develop print awareness and become familiar with language patterns. Their imagination and interest in reading grow as they hear storybooks and poetry.

The research cited indicates that parents can model the joy of reading and introduce their children to the richness of literature, thereby fostering their child's development of a lifelong love of reading. Also included in the thesis is a discussion of implications for further research and implications for parents, including obstacles to reading aloud, reading at a young age, and when to begin reading aloud. (Contains 45 references.) (KB) Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made from the original document.


Office of Educational Research and Improvement


CENTER (ERIC) )(This document has been reproduced as received from the person or organization originating it.

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Reading aloud significantly affects the reading development of preschool children. When parents read aloud, they help their children learn vocabulary, complex sentence structure, and story structure. Furthermore, parents build their child's selfesteem, encourage curiosity about words, and introduce the pleasures of reading.

Research shows that the age of the child when reading begins is important. Children who have been read to develop print awareness and become familiar with language patterns.

Their imagination and interest in reading grow as they hear storybooks and poetry.

Parents can model the joy of reading and introduce their children to the richness of literature. By reading aloud, parents foster their child's development of a lifelong love of reading.

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Historical Framework II.

Vocabulary Expansion III.

Receptive Comprehension IV.

Curiosity Development V.

Repeated Readings VI.

VII. Exposure to Story Structure VIII. Exposure to the Reading Process Pleasures of Reading IX.

Intelligence X.

Parental Influences XI.

Interactions Between Mother & Child XII.

XIII. Home Environment XIV. Children's Interest Implications for Further Research XV.

XVI. Implications for Parents Obstacles to Reading Aloud Reading at a Young Age When to Begin to Read Aloud XVII. References

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Parents strongly influence their child's reading development during the preschool and early elementary years. As the child's first teachers, they serve as role models for reading behavior. By praising and encouraging their child's attempts at literacy, they foster a positive attitude towards books and print in general. By reading stories aloud, parents help children become familiar with language patterns; this, in turn, enables the children to experience less difficulty anticipating words and phrases when they begin to read independently (Strang, 1962). According to the Commission on Reading, "the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children" (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985).

Both parents and teachers consider reading an essential skill for children to learn.

Unfortunately, national and state reports indicate that a majority of California's children cannot read at basic levels (California Reading Task Force, 1995). The publication Becoming a Nation of Readers concluded that reading should be our highest priority and called for a blend of skills development and literature, language, and comprehension in a balanced, effective reading program. In the primary grades and in many pre-schools, much attention is given to language arts and beginning reading programs. Clearly, the school plays an important role in the reading development of a child. However, what role do parents play in their child's reading achievement? How do parents influence their child's literacy? What role does reading aloud serve in a pre-school child's growth as a reader? How do parents nurture their child's interest in books? How does reading aloud

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affect children's reading development? In this paper, I will review the historical framework and the many benefits from shared reading with preschool age children. I will explain how reading aloud expands a child's vocabulary, exposes them to language structure, builds self-esteem, acquaints them with the reading process, allows them to

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Early research on reading development focused on the age at which a child can learn to read. In the early 1900s, at the age of six, children began first grade and learned how to read. Although extensive research on preschool early reading was not done prior to 1958, several studies on children who read early gained attention during the first half of the twentieth century. For example, in the 1918 issue of Journal of Applied Psychology, an anonymous parent wrote about how he helped his young daughter learn to read. According to his report, the child was reading fluently at 26 months. In another well-known study in 1925, one researcher, Lewis Terman, reported that 250 of his 552 subjects reported learning to read before starting school. Of all these gifted students, nearly half said they learned before the age of five, about ten percent before they were four; and under five percent before the age of three. The others who reported reading early could not recall when they began reading. Based upon several studies in the 1920s and 1930s, many people believed that children needed to be 6 or 6.5 years old in order to be ready to read. In these small studies among first graders, the results showed that those with a higher mental age learned to read better. However, the research was limited; the studies consisted of a small group of subjects in a formal classroom setting (Morphett & Washburne, 1931). Nevertheless, the idea of postponing reading instruction until it could occur in a school setting persisted.

Some studies before 1950 focused on whether students could learn to read at an early age when given instruction. For example, in 1931, one researcher, Davidson, studied 13 children with mental ages of four years. He wanted to find out whether these

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young children could learn to read, and if all children (between three to five years old) would learn to read equally well under the same conditions in which they received ten minutes of reading instruction daily. At the end of this period, the children took reading tests. Results from this study showed that all the children had learned to read some words and that pre-school age children can learn to read. The most successful child identified 269 words, while the least successful identified 20 words. In 1938, another researcher, Wilson, studied four-and five-year-old children who were given help with reading while attending the Horace Mann School at Teachers College, Columbia University. This researcher did not indicate that further studies would be done to trace the later reading of children who started reading as a result of informal instruction in nursery school and kindergarten. In 1954, another researcher, Strang, examined the reading autobiographies of 54 junior high school student with IQs of 120 or higher. She found that approximately half said that they learned to read at five years of age or younger. The years 1956-1957 were part of a time period which devoted the beginning weeks of first grade to developing reading readiness.

In the 1950s, most people believed that a mental age of 6.5 was necessary before children should begin to receive reading instruction. Many educators and parents alike accepted that the first-grade year would include reading readiness programs in the beginning weeks or months of the school year. Furthermore, in the years preceeding and following 1958, most schools discouraged early home help with reading, and parents were warned that helping their preschoolers could lead to confusion or boredom for their child once school instruction started. Later, in the 1970s, many recognized reading as a

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constructive act that draws upon a child's oral language skills and background knowledge about the world, people, texts, and written language. As interest in skills development grew, more attention was given to emergent literacy, the cluster of behaviors involving uses of print and oral language that appear during the preschool years. In the late 1970s to early 1980s, research on the role of parent involvement and reading achievement increased. Positive relationships for parents reading and children's achievement in reading were discovered (Becher, 1985; Hess, Holloway, Price, & Dickson, 1979). By the late 1980s, many began to recognize reading as an active process of constructing meaning and to view literacy as a social activity (Dickinson, 1987). In reviewing the literature, it is important to examine how reading aloud to preschool children benefits their reading growth.

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Children learn language by hearing it repeatedly (Trelease, 1995). In one study, Senechal, LeFevre, Hudson, and Lawson (1996) interviewed parents of 119 children from day-care centers and nursery schools in a large Canadian city. The parent who read most frequently to the child responded to questions such as, "how frequently do you and other family members read to your child?" On a checklist, they marked the titles of children's storybooks that they knew. They were given a list of 60 titles; some were popular children's books and some were made up. The researchers found significant positive correlations between the children's book exposure checklists and children's vocabulary scores. In addition, they found that children's interest in reading, the frequency of storybook reading, the number of children's books available, and the questions pertaining to library usage were positively related to vocabulary knowledge.

Shared reading facilitates vocabulary development in several ways. During book reading, mothers use language that is richer and more varied than that used during eating, playing with toys, or dressing their child (Dunn, Wooding, & Herman, 1977; Hoff Ginsberg, 1991). First, books "contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language" (Senechal, et al, 1996, p. 520). For instance, in the well-known story of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, Peter gets caught in a gooseberry net and 'gives himself up for lost.' However, 'his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement and implored him to exert himself' and Peter escapes from the net just as Mr. McGregor arrives to capture him. (Senechal, et al, 1996, p.520).

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The words in this passage show that the language of many storybooks is more complex than that of the everyday language that adults use when conversing with children.

Children's books contain 50% more rare words than prime-time television or college students' conversations (Hayes & Ahrens, 1988). In Curious George Gets a Medal by H.A. Rey, some sample vocabulary words are: funnel, tap, lather, escape, shed, loop, squealing, rattling, emergency rockets, launching site, lever, parachute, and flash.

Clearly, children gain vocabulary as they listen to stories. Trelease (1995) relates the story of a mother in Michigan who read Steven Kellog's picture book, Paul Bunyan, to her four-year-old son, Philip, each night. Repeatedly, Philip heard this paragraph at the

end of the book:

With the passing of the years, Paul has been seen less and less frequently.

However, along with his unusual size and strength, he seems to possess an extraordinary longevity. Sometimes his great bursts of laughter can be heard rumbling like distant thunder across the wild Alaskan mountain ranges where he and Babe still roam. (Trelease, 1995, p.51) One evening, Philip's mother came to his bedroom and asked, "Well, Philip, what story would you like tonight?" He thought for a moment and then declared soberly, "I thinkI think I would like a story about 'extraordinary longevity.' Philip had learned two words that most five-year-olds did not have in their working vocabularies. How had he learned them? Repeatedly hearing those words in a meaningful context, from a special person in his life, enabled four-year-old Philip to learn those words. Repeated readings enable children to develop their vocabulary rapidly.

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As children listen to stories being read aloud, they are learning about the vocabulary and complex sentence structure of standard English that they will encounter in books and at school. Researchers support that reading aloud to young children "serves as an introduction to new and more complex syntactic and grammatical forms" (Senechal, 1996, p. 520). Sentences in books often have clauses built into them or are joined by conjunctions that are specifically chosen to express an idea (Hall & Moats, 2000).

For example, Margery Williams writes in The Velveteen Rabbit:

There were rabbits like himself, but quite furry and brand-new. They must have been very well made, for their seams didn't show at all, and they changed shape in a queer way when they moved; one minute they were long and thin and the next minute, fat and bunchy, instead of always staying the same as he did

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Her use of the conjunctions (but, for, and, instead) help to express the differences between the real and toy rabbits. Sentences in books tend to contain more adjectives and adverbs and apply correct grammar more often than everyday conversation. In Lyle,

Lyle, Crocodile, a children's book by Bernard Waber, the story goes:

Not wanting to seem unsociable, [Lyle] decided to join the other crocodiles who were cozily piled together. Just when he thought he had gotten himself comfortable on top...he awakened to find himself crushed to the very bottom.

Lyle's restlessness so annoyed the other crocodiles, they all just got up and stomped off in a huff (Waber, 1965, p. 36-38).

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In this passage, the author uses words and expressions that a child would not usually hear in everyday conversation.

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