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When Should I Stop Reading to my Children?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Parents are told that reading to children is an excellent way to enhance learning skills, stir an interest in reading, and to improve a child’s concentration. Reading to children also allows one to spend cuddly, quality time with kids, and can be an end of the day treat for both adults and children. However, many parents wonder what the appropriate age is to stop reading to children. The answer to this depends on numerous factors.

Once children begin reading on their own, and are assigned daily reading, reading to children should be in addition to the child’s silent reading. However, if a child is struggling over words and tripping over pronunciation, it might be best to switch roles at this point and have the child read to you. This way, one can still capture the closeness of reading together, and the caretaker can help the child with difficult words, when needed.

Another possibility is to combine your reading with a child’s reading. This works best if you have two books available. You can switch paragraphs with the child. He or she reads one aloud, and then you read one aloud. This teaches a valuable skill to children. Throughout school they will be reading material aloud and will be expected to follow along with the text when other children are reading. Learning this skill can help your child stay more focused during read aloud sessions at schools.

When reading to children or having them read to you, the experience may be an overt learning experience. Some children will miss the closeness they shared with you when you read books together. You might want to consider reading to children who are already good readers as just a way of asserting that togetherness and maintaining a beloved and anticipated activity.

In fact, reading to children never has to stop. It can become a family activity that occurs each night, or at least every couple of nights. Many children do want to exhibit their reading skills, and it is great to have extra books or sit close enough to a child so they can read from your book. Give the kids a chance to be the readers too.

With long spots of dialogue, you can even teach children a thing or two about drama, making voices, and reading with spirit. Each child in the family could be a Harry Potter character, for example, and read their “part” when the appropriate time comes. With a large family, having at least a couple copies of a book makes this more workable.

Also consider more diverse selections when reading to children who are older. Short stories and essays work very well, and can introduce new vocabulary and discussions about ideas. For comical work, look for writers like Mark Twain, James Thurber, Erma Bombeck, or James Herriot. Read aloud from magazines like Nature or National Geographic. Introducing more advanced concepts to older children and discussing a reading is an excellent way for children to help improve comprehension, while still having family time.

There are a few times when one should stop reading to children. If children are not doing well with sustained silent reading, they really do need the practice. Don’t allow your reading to the children to interfere with their developing this useful and enjoyable skill.

Also, let children know you do want their attention when you are reading to them. A small child may want to remain active, but talking over you while you are reading to children or making distracting noises should put an end to the reading for the night. It is okay if the child cruises around a room while you are reading, as long as they are taking in the material.

Generally, there are few reasons to stop reading to children. As children mature they can become the readers too, and can learn about interpretive reading of texts. It also continues a tradition treasured by many children, and can help instill lifelong reading habits.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By christensen — On Nov 10, 2009

Actually, yes I am. The pleasure of reading aloud is often lost when kids become teens. However, it's a wonderful thing to share. I'm not suggesting that be the only reading adults or their teens do, but sharing print read aloud can certainly lead to some lovely family time.

Perhaps I am prejudiced in this respect, but having grown up with a yearly reading of the Christmas Carol, it still doesn't feel right when my father isn't there to share it with me. All four of my siblings and my parents take part in the reading of it together-- (and the youngest sibling in my family is in her late 20s). The grandkids aged from 8 to 20 also enjoy it.

I think having both adults and teens share written things they enjoy with each other is a positive thing!

By anon47843 — On Oct 07, 2009

When is a "child" a "young adult" to whom an entire body of literature is aimed? Are you suggesting that parents continue reading to a child through adolescence?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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