I once worked for an administrator that said to me, “reading aloud to kids and self-selected reading is a complete waste of time!” He wanted me to abandon a read-aloud project with some middle school ELA teachers and focus on an online diagnostic reading program instead.
I know what you are thinking. He must be joking, right? Unfortunately, no. I think he was pretty serious considering the redness of his face and the smoke emanating from his ears. I wanted to respond and refute his theory with decades of research that proved otherwise; however, I was so taken aback that I didn’t. Luckily he moved on to greener pastures not long after and we parted ways.
Just the other day this memory resurfaced. I had been asked to read aloud from a Beverly Cleary book to kindergarten students in honor of D.E.A.R. Day. It had been a couple of years since I’d been so up close and personal to some kinders so I jumped at the chance. Having read all of the Cleary books as a youngster several times over, I easily settled on Henry Huggins. I shared that like Henry, I had rescued an unwanted dog that turned out to be my best friend too. After giving them a little background of the story and sharing a picture of my little dog those kinders were hooked and couldn’t wait to hear more. So I started reading… 15 minutes later every student was actively listening, well behaved and laughing at all the appropriate parts. A group of 5-6 year old emerging readers. “A waste of time?” I thought. Hardly.
I wish at the time my administrator confronted me that I had been armed with an elevator speech that would have supported my read-aloud project with middle school students. Since then, I’ve become a little more prepared to defend reading aloud to students, particularly older ones.
Why should we read aloud to students? Don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what the experts say:
- Reading aloud is the foundation for literacy development. It is the single most important activity for reading success (Bredekamp, Copple, & Neuman, 2000).
- It provides children with a demonstration of phrased, fluent reading (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996).
- It reveals the rewards of reading, and develops the listener’s interest in books and desire to be a reader (Mooney, 1990).
- Listening to others read develops key understanding and skills, such as an appreciation for how a story is written and familiarity with book conventions, such as “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” (Bredekamp et al., 2000).
- Reading aloud to children helps them develop and improve literacy skills — reading, writing, speaking, and listening. And since children listen on a higher level than they read, listening to other readers stimulates growth and understanding of vocabulary and language patterns. (www.educationworld.com, 2017).
Interested in promoting some reading aloud to students in your school?
- Scholastic 100 Best Read-Alouds: http://www.scholastic.com/100BestReadAloudBooks/
- Read aloud book lists from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/list/tag/read-aloud
Feeling a little more ambitious?
- One School, One Book: Read to Them is a 501C(3) non-profit organization promoting family literacy. Their programs encourage and enable reading together at home by providing every school with tools, resources, guidance, and support.
- The Global Read Aloud: Beginning in 2010 with just one book and a few teachers to now more than 200,000 students connected through read-alouds. The project has grown to include titles for middle and high school as well. Read aloud one book over a 6-week period in the fall and connect with teachers and students from around the world digitally.
- ReadAloudAmerica.org: Founded in 1995 by Jed Gaines, Read Aloud America puts out a list each year for recommended read aloud titles divided by age group. It even includes lists for adults!
If you have more ideas about reading aloud with students, please share you comments below.
Author: Sedley Abercrombie
Sedley Abercrombie is the current past president for the North Carolina School Library Media Association. She is also the lead library media coordinator for 32 school libraries in Davidson County, NC as well as an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.