I don't know how much I've shared on my blog about how our family feels about reading. I firmly believe that reading aloud to your kids teaches them more than I could ever teach otherwise. It teaches them language, colors, numbers, and letters from the very beginning of their life. I read aloud to my babies as soon as the fog clears after they are born (about two weeks,) and I do this every time I put them down for a nap or bedtime. That is about 5 or 6 times a day. I usually read poetry to them when they are too young to look at a book and then we graduate to board books. I think it helps them learn to talk earlier and gives them a better vocabulary. So far all the kids except for Drew have been early talkers and had a great vocabulary. Drew, as a baby, would fuss and thrash around during our story time/bed time routine. I did it anyway, but he kind of refused to participate until he was around a year or so.
I like to move the kids to chapter books as soon as they are able to listen and understand most of it without the pictures for help. The oldest three moved pretty young to chapter books like Junie B. Jones and the Magic Tree House books. Drew (now age 4) has been slower because he has trouble following the story sometimes. There's been a lot of trial chapter books that I decided after reading them to him that he wasn't quite ready. We'd wait a while and then try again. I have read a few Magic Tree House books to him, as well as Sir Lancelot the Great from the Knights' Tale series and an abridged Wizard of Oz book. He liked those and was able to follow most of the story. I read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to him just before we moved. He needs lots of breaks with picture books though in between days of reading the chapter books. I plan to get more of the Knights' Tale series for him at the library.
One thing that really helps with their listening skills is to listen to books on tape in the car. Drew is just recently began really enjoying listening to those. He even liked Where the Red Fern Grows, but he especially enjoys Hank the Cowdog books on tape.
As the oldest three (now 11, 9, and 7 years old) learned to read, we didn't stop reading to them. It kind of happened on accident. Neither I nor my husband were read to after we could read our own chapter books. I hadn't heard yet of the amazing Read Aloud Revival. We just had always done it. Bedtimes and naptimes always included a book. Over the years kids have been grouped together in different ways depending on their level. Currently, dad reads to the oldest three (many times Bobby gets to hang out and listen too,) while I read to Drew and Judah a book of Drew's choice and then Judah chooses a short book for me to read to him in his own room. Then I go get Bobby and read to him in his rocking chair before putting him down. It takes a while in this season of our life. We also say family prayers before all the reading begins. Sometimes the littles get to join in those, but many times dinner and chores took too long, and they are ready for bed. Those times, I pray with the little ones before or after reading to them. The fact that the whole bedtime routine takes a long time doesn't usually bother me because reading to them is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend time with them. I'm not one to do a ton of playing with the kids, especially since they have each other to play with now. I love to teach them and read to them. I guess homeschooling was my destiny after all, even though I resisted it at first.
Brian gets to read to the big kids books that he loves. He is reading Lord of the Rings for the second time all the way through the trilogy because Isaac wasn't old enough for it the first time around. He usually ends the book with a late night watching of the movies together (not all in one night!) On nights he is home late or can't read to them, I read from one of our school books that we read during the school day. They do not care at all because they just love to be read to while they draw. Right now we are reading Genevieve Foster's Augustus Caesar's World which is written as an enjoyable story. So it is a good one for evenings.
Reading aloud to your older children teaches them about places, history, language, art, and the list goes on and on and on. My children's favorite part of homeschool is our read aloud time. We cycle through books on art history, history, science, and Shakespeare during that time. Last year, I had to read during Judah's morning nap and have Drew play alone in his room in order to make it happen. The boys were too noisy. This year they've been able to play in the same room quietly (mostly) while we read.
Our family is reading alot, especially if you count all the time the three oldest read to themselves. We have even started reading aloud in the van when we are altogether for a trip or just going to Mass on Sunday, although it is a challenge for me to read loud enough for everyone to hear me. Who knew our Ford 12 passenger would have loud road noise? :) I keep three or so books in there so I can pick up whatever I am feeling like reading at the time. Right now we have Famous Men of Greece, The Story of the Church, and Catholic Shrines and Pilgrimages in Central and Eastern Europe in the van. On top of all that, Brian and I have made a resolution to read to each other after the kids go to bed as often as possible. We read CS Lewis' The Great Divorce and now we are reading Lilith by George MacDonald.
All this is to say, Go read aloud to your children! You won't regret it!