The Connection Magic of Reading Aloud
By Pam Leo, Family Literacy Activist
“There is magic hiding between the pages of a book; a book is a bridge that connects hearts.” - Pam Leo, Family Literacy activist

Two things happen when we read aloud to young children. The first is that every story we read to a child builds a stronger foundation for them to one day learn to read on their own. The second is that it builds a connection between the reader and listener. For parents and caregivers, reading aloud is one of the easiest and quickest ways to connect or reconnect with a child. However, the connection benefits of reading aloud are not reserved for children alone.

After my mom retired she became a much more avid reader than she had been earlier in her life. Sadly, in her later years, her vision made it too hard for her to read, so I began reading to her. Our daily read-alouds became our sweetest connection times of the day. Over the years, she had many stays at rehab and I read to her there as well. Her roommates always seem to love listening to our read-aloud times too.

In her last two years, she had a friend who would visit once or twice a week. This friend would also read to her. When the pandemic hit, and her friend could no longer visit, I dropped off their read-aloud book to her friend so they could continue their read-aloud visits over the phone. They soon decided to have read-aloud time every day to break the isolation of quarantine.

As her health declined, she required more caregivers in order for her to remain at home. We realized that it was not easy or comfortable for her to be cared for by strangers in her home for hours, so we asked that they read to her each day, too. The caregivers began to love their read-aloud times with my mom as much as she did. Before long the read-aloud magic of “connection” turned those care-providing strangers into her much-beloved friends.
Reading-aloud was creating connections and positively impacting so many people in my mother’s circle, I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all seniors at home, in hospitals or in nursing homes had a volunteer to read aloud to them. I decided to explore the idea of starting another grassroots literacy project that could be a sister project to the Book Fairy Pantry Project. I would call it, Book Angel Readers for Seniors, in my mom’s memory.

As I researched this idea, I found that other such read-aloud projects already exist in other states and that there is even a book written especially for those wishing to serve seniors by reading aloud to them.

Promoting reading to seniors will be coming full circle, from advocating that adults read to their young ones at the beginning of life, to encouraging everyone, even the young, to read to seniors in their last chapters of life. This act will give seniors the much-treasured gift of human connection that can be found between the pages of a book.

With the season of giving upon us, let’s consider giving our seniors the gift of connection they experience when someone reads aloud to them. And what better gift could we give our children than to teach them that their ability to read gives them great power to be of service to their family and community. Children who read can help their parents by reading to younger siblings at home. They can also be of service in their communities by volunteering to read to young children at daycare centers, reading to dogs at animal shelters and reading to seniors in nursing homes.

Gifts aren’t always wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a fancy bow. The gift of service is often one in which the givers receive as much or more than they give. What if everyone who reads this article read even one story to one someone who would otherwise not receive the gift of connection that a read-aloud story provides? What a happy, happy holiday that would be.

Pam Leo, is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting, and a new poem, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children's books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents, are combined in her new role as the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is "No Child With No Books," because "Books change children's lives... For good."