Some of my earliest memories from childhood are from junior kindergarten, when Mrs. Fontaine, our teacher, gathered us around her on the carpet for story time. She would read a book to us, sounding out the text while showing us the pictures. While I don’t remember all the texts and titles we read, they were usually available in the classroom for the students to pick up and look through before and after story time as well.
Nowadays there are some pretty grim statistics about kids being read to out loud, even though the benefits of doing so have been well-documented. Some of this is understandable. A lot of parents are in the workforce, and time spent at school focuses on all sorts of curricula, not just reading, so there may be less time for reading in general. There’s also been a shift to using screens – computers, tablets, television, and so on – more so than ever before, especially in an educational way.
When I was a kid, there was reliably an episode of Reading Rainbow or Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on TV most days. I don’t know what kinds of shows are on now, and whether they’re as widely accessible as PBS ones, but since the advent of the Internet other people have gotten into creating multimedia reading experiences for children online. I’ve found some examples of stories being read out loud on YouTube, for example.
I don’t think this is a perfect replacement for reading out loud to kids. For one thing, a child can’t see or touch the book the way they can if it’s available to them in real life. I remember examining illustrations in great detail before moving on to the next page if I could help it, and when being read to through a screen, a child doesn’t always have the option, since someone else is dictating the pace at which the story is read. Nothing quite comes close to holding the tangible copy in one’s hand. Still, I like how one can find a variety of readers and reading styles on the Internet – it’s a good way to get children to listen (and pay attention to!) all kinds of voices. It’s also a good way to “try before you buy,” if one’s budget is limited and you want to check out a book or two before committing to a purchase (especially if the book isn’t available from the library… or the library is closed).
I’ve chosen to link this one because it’s new and Christmas-themed. I hope you enjoy Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, read out loud by Whimsical Tales for Children.
What other books do you want to see shared like this? What other online readers have you encountered?