[read part one here - When it's good to read aloud.]
We must always keep in mind that small children learn in so many multitudes of ways other than just listening to stories! We wouldn't want to shut them up all day inside with books. They need lots of time to process what they've heard, to play it out, or to spill outside and stomp puddles or smack mudpies and the like. We've got to give them time to digest all that they're taking in.
Then of course there are some things we simply won't read aloud. I may want to edit or skip some parts of the material unnecessary to their development at the time. Charlotte Mason actually recommended this with parts of the Old Testament. Though my husband skips nothing and my children to have survived knowing about Lot and his daughters, to my extreme relief. ;)
And soon enough, the time will come when they will be reading all on their own. We all want our children to become independent readers who LOVE to read. For example, an educational goal I have for my children, is that in the end they be able to handle whatever they are given to read (whether they tackle it straightaway or know where to find the resources to help them through). They definitely won't attain this by my reading everything to them or explaining every difficulty they come across. At some point, they must, by practice, read most if not all of their school books alone.
In those transitional days when a reader is getting ready to assume more of her school readings, it's often necessary to hand the material over gradually so as not to overwhelm. Some students while able to read, may not be able to read entirely alone (see Anne's note). Though I recommend encouraging independence, it may come slower for some than others. My 8yo daughter will be reading most of her books on her own this year, while my sons were only just transitioning into more independent reading at age 10. Everybody's different and the transition will look different for everyone. :) [for more on what this transition looks like and at what age, see vol.1 pg.230-233]
As wonderful as reading aloud is, sometimes we have less time to spare. With very young children, we do our best. We may be juggling many ages and stages simultaneously in our homes. We may suddenly realize to our dismay that overcommitted, we have so much on our plates that even the time in the car between events must needs be music-filled or silent in order to maintain sanity. However, this is a state that we cannot maintain forever. Let's face it, during some seasons it won't be possible to read aloud for enjoyment as much as we had perhaps hoped, but those books over the years that we are able to share will be remembered. In our family, through all the moves and changes I try to keep at least one book going at all times. Time spent reading aloud has definitely become one of those ties that bind us... something I never would have foreseen early on, but that now I wouldn't trade for the world.
Articles on Reading Aloud to Children:
AO discussion on Reading Aloud
Why it is So Important to Read Aloud to Your Kids
Parent Involvement and Student Achievement
Charlotte on the subject of Reading Aloud:
"Let us suppose mother and children arrived at some breezy open wherein it seemeth always afternoon. In the first place, it is not her business to entertain the little people: there should be no story-books, no telling of tales, as little talk as possible, and that to some purpose. Who thinks to amuse children with tale or talk at a circus or pantomime? And here, is there not infinitely more displayed for their delectation? " vol.1 p45
"The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading. Knowledge is conveyed to them by lessons and talk, but the studious habit of using books as a means of interest and delight is not acquired. This habit should be begun early; so soon as the child can read at all, he should read for himself, and to himself, history, legends, fairy tales, and other suitable matter. He should be trained from the first to think that one reading of any lesson is enough to enable him to narrate what he has read, and will thus get the habit of slow, careful reading, intelligent even when it is silent, because he reads with an eye to the full meaning of every clause." vol.1 pg227
"It is a delight to older people to read aloud to children, but this should be only an occasional treat and indulgence, allowed before bedtime, for example. We must remember the natural inertness of a child's mind; give him the habit of being read to, and he will steadily shirk the labour of reading for himself; indeed, we all like to be spoon-fed with our intellectual meat, or we should read and think more for ourselves and be less eager to run after lectures." vol.1 pg228
"The power of reading with perfect attention will not be gained by the child who is allowed to moon over his lessons. For this reason, reading lessons must be short; ten minutes or a quarter of an hour of fixed attention is enough for children of the ages we have in view, and a lesson of this length will enable a child to cover two or three pages of his book. The same rule as to the length of a lesson applies to children whose lessons are read to them because they are not yet able to read for themselves." vol.1 p230