Reading Aloud: Kids Are Listening Even When They’re Not

Apparently, 1st February was World Read Aloud Day. No, I didn’t know either, it completely passed me by…I suppose they weren’t loud enough.

I’m not a scientist, but I conducted a Reading Aloud experiment this morning. Read on to find out more.

Good Morning

Picture the typical scene: it’s 6:30 am on a weekday; my wife has just left to go to work, and my two boys (four and seven) have been up since six, playing with Lego in the living room. I am on the sofa in my dressing gown, wishing I had an extra hour or two of sleep.

In my hands I’m holding a copy of the book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes.


I had planned to sit and read it by myself, while the boys played, before it’d be time to go and have breakfast and start the whole getting-ready-for-school routine.

But on the spur of the moment I decided I would read the book aloud, regardless of whether the boys wanted to listen to it or not. I was reading it for my own pleasure, after all, not necessarily theirs.

The sound of my own voice

When I first started reading, they stopped what they were doing, and asked me why I was reading it “too loud”. I told them I was reading it for me, but they could listen if they wanted.

They both carried on playing with Lego, with the four year old jabbering away to himself, lost in his own world of characters.

I felt a bit silly at first, reading it out loud to myself, but carried on, trying to ignore all the other noise.


The four year old intermittently leapt onto the sofa beside me to look at the pictures in the book or to ask me questions about what was happening in the story, while the seven year old quietly carried on playing with Lego, occasionally glancing in my direction.

I didn’t really know if either of them were paying attention, but I carried on reading aloud, until suddenly, it was 7:30 and I’d finished the whole book (it’s only 60 pages).

The End

When I stopped reading, the seven year old came over and showed me what he’d been making; he’d built a Lego model of the Iron Man.


He had even included car headlights as the Iron Man’s eyes, just as explicitly described in the book.

You see, he had been listening all along, to the whole story, even though I thought he’d tuned me out. The four year old had been listening too, despite appearing to be lost in his own play.

We talked about the story during our walk to school, they were able to recap bits of it, and the boys asked if Mummy could read it to them again later.

What I learned this morning:

  • Reading aloud isn’t hard work
  • The kids really are listening, even when you think they’re not!

For more reading aloud click here.


18 thoughts on “Reading Aloud: Kids Are Listening Even When They’re Not

  1. This is amazing! I love that he built a Lego Iron Man and was listening after all. My daughter is much the same. When I read a story at night, she’s always doing head stands or asking me random questions in the middle of it all and I often find myself thinking- why do I bother reading to her at all? And then the next morning, she talks to me about the chapter that I read to her the night before and it’s very clear that she has (somehow) listened to every word I read. I guess, maybe they can multi-task better than us?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must admit, I may have shed a tear after the school run this morning.. That’s cool about your daughter. My boys don’t usually do other things while we read stories, but normally they choose picture books which are a more visually engaging than a chapter book. I am definitely going to try this again though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When my three children were young, the age difference between the eldest and the youngest is six years, I read them The Wind in the Willows. It was reading with them together rather than the usual individual reading I did with each one. They enjoyed being squashed together on the couch while I did the reading. A group cuddle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My boys would multi task like that. More than once I said, “you didn’t hear a word I said” and they would repeat back verbatim sometimes with funny side notes such as “then in a much more frustrated voice you said”.
    I also liked reading “big” books at night like the complete Thomas the Tank stories, Winnie the Pooh, James Herriot kids stories etc. Bigger than a single picture book but still a Big book and good for the difference in their ages. Enjoy this time, it is precious and you are the laying the groundwork for a good relationship when they are teens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, and thank you for your lovely comment. I’m very aware of the passing of time, and often wonder how different they’ll be in a few years’ time. We’ve made a concerted effort to instill a love of books in them, so hopefully it will pay off! The four year old is in his first year at school and has just started to read, it is wonderful to see how happy and he is and proud of himself when he deciphers words on the page.

      It sounds like you did a great job reading with your children.


  4. This is awesome! I tried this with The Hobbit a few months ago, but I don’t think the kids were ready just yet (well, they are 7, 5, and 5, and it takes a while for Smaug to show up). When my husband reads to our daughter for bed, the boys like having the door open to their room so they can listen from their beds. It’s pretty neat. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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