Think about it . . . if we aren't talking or reading, we most likely are listening. We listen to the radio, the television, our friends, our family, and our coworkers. But listening is something we have to do actively because "listening to" something and "hearing" something are two very different concepts. This is why teaching children listening skills is so important.
We hear the familiar sounds of the refigerator humming, the microwave beeping, the dog barking, the baby crying, and the cars honking. And if we are fortunate enough to break out of the rat race, we can even enjoy the sounds of nature like birds chirping, a brook babbling, the wind blowing, or leaves rustling. But just because we have heard these sounds doesn't mean they have registered in our brains.
My solution is generally to turn the tv off because it is just added noise and some day when my kids are older I will be able to watch the news again. But this is a perfect example of the differences between hearing and active listening. I heard the news, but I wasn't actively listening to it, so I had no idea what had been said when it was over.
Another situation that exemplifies this difference is remembering people's names. How many times have you been introduced tosomebody at a party or gathering and within seconds can't remember the person's name. As the introduction was being made, you were probably thinking to yourself, "well, I'll never remember the name anyway . . . or . . . I am so bad with names." You heard the person talking and acted polite by pretending to listen, but your brain was really a million miles away and you weren't actively listening to the introduction. Without engaging your active listening skills, the person's name never entered your brain and therefore, you never had a chance at remembering the name.
Listening skills are developed, and the more we practice the more skilled we become at teaching children listening skills. Reading to our children not only is a way of teaching children listening skills, it forces them to practice their listening skills. And we know our children are engaging their active listening skills because of how many times our older children have corrected us.
We hear, "You skipped a page." Or sometimes if I play word games with my son and say, "Beep! Beep! Elephants in a jeep . . . " while reading Sheep in a Jeep. I immediately hear, "It's not elephants, Mommy. It's sheep." So again, I know my son is actively listening to the story being read to him. So, it stands to reason that the more time we spend teaching children listening skills by reading to our
kids, the more they practice their active listening skills and the better they become at it. In a nutshell, teaching children listening skills by reading aloud to our little ones improves their listening skills, and more importantly, their active listening skills.
A Personal Reflection
I remember before my oldest son turned 2, it was very difficult to read to him. Oh, I tried, but Eric would never sit still and listen . . . or so it seemed. I think part of that was because he didn't realize he was supposed to. Young children learn to sit with you when you read by doing it over and over and over again. Each time we read to our children we are not only teaching children listening skills, but we are conditioning them about the mechanics of reading.
As I read to Eric, he would wander across the room and I would think to myself, "Is this kid ever going to sit still and listen?" But I kept at it because I knew the true importance of reading to him.
One day Eric moved away again. I hadn't seen any improvement and I just didn't see the point, so I stopped reading. Well, Eric immediately stopped what he was doing and said, "No! No! Tree! Tree!" We were at the point in the book where the dogs were in their cars and the book asked, "Where are all those dogs going?"
Lo and behold, Eric had been using his active listening skills all along! He knew the story and he knew the dogs were going to the tree. Eric had been listening all along, but it had just been in his own way. I guess in hindsight I should have known that to be the case, because Eric is very much a child who "has to do things in his own way."
Over time, Eric came closer and closer to me as I read aloud. Today, we snuggle up together all over the house while we read and I can't tell you the number of times a day I hear, "Read, Mommy! R-E-A-D!"
So, "YES!" they are actively listening and practicing their listening skills . . . even the young ones.
Don't ever put pressure on your child about reading, as the benefits are just too important, and most definitely keep on reading. Some day you just might be surprised like I was.
Bottom line: Teaching children listening skills pays off in too many ways to enumerate!
"A wise old owl sat in an oak.
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