As early literacy professionals, we stress the importance of reading to children from the youngest age possible to give them a solid foundation when they start school. But what about the parents who didn’t receive this message until one or more of their children were older? Is it too late for those children to benefit from reading with their parents?
Luckily, no matter what age a person happens to be, he/she is going to benefit from reading aloud and being read to. I remember my 4th and 5th grade teachers reading to us in school, and I have fond memories of my dad reading Harry Potter to my brother and me when we were in middle and even high school. Not only does reading aloud help build literacy skills (after all, we can understand books that we hear that are above our current reading level), but it also creates a positive bond between children and adults. It demonstrates the level of love and commitment felt by that adult, even in as little as ten minutes each day.
There’s a push in the UK right now to ensure that all children entering secondary school are able to read. While it is true that children have the best chance of succeeding in reading when literacy education is begun at birth, any contact children have with books at any age will boost their ability to read.
When conducting storytimes, especially those open to all ages, it is good to occasionally mention the fact that reading is good for people no matter how old they are. This helps boost parents’ confidence and increases the probability that they will engage all of their children in reading, even if those children aren’t between the ages between 0 and 3.