Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Teacher's New Year’s Resolution: Read Aloud Daily

I was treated to a remarkable experience at my brother’s home this past Sunday, where the family was gathered for an annual holiday celebration. My brother came out to the family room where I was sitting taking in a football game and said, “You better look into the den, your granddaughter is holding court.” I went in to check it out and there I saw my twelve year-old granddaughter, Allison Rainville, reading aloud to a rapt audience of her younger cousins, ages ranging from one to nine. The book was The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Allison’s reading was expressive, even dramatic. I thought, “Boy, this kid would definitely score high on a fluent reading rubric.” I was proud of my granddaughter and pleased that the read aloud of a book had captured the children’s attention away from all of the distractions that electronic games, remote control cars and new dolls can create at this time of the year.

So I got to thinking, what would be a great, easy to implement and educationally sound New Year’s resolution for all teachers to make? How about reading aloud to your students daily? I am taking the pledge, also. Even though I now teach in college, read aloud remains relevant and engaging to my 20 somethings. I resolve to read to them at each class.

In this time of Common Core implementation, runaway standardized testing and teacher evaluation based on student performance on these tests, I worry that the daily read aloud may become a casualty of education reform. The truth is, there will never be a time when reading aloud is not a relevant and effective instructional strategy for students. In case your supervisor does not think so, here are ten reasons that read aloud matters that you can put into your lesson plans.

1.    Read aloud helps children relate to reading as a pleasurable experience.
2.    Read aloud provides a rich aesthetic experience for students.
3.    Read aloud exposes students to different text genres and writing styles.
4.    Read aloud provides students with a model of fluent, expressive reading.
5.    Read aloud increases vocabulary.
6.    Read aloud provides opportunities for the teacher to model comprehension strategies.
7.    Read aloud helps young children make connections between speech and print.
8.    Read aloud engages students in more complex text. Typically, children can listen and comprehend text two years above their reading level.
9.    Read aloud helps second language learners become familiar with the sounds and shapes of English.
10. Read aloud helps students learn to ask and answer questions about text.

What should you read aloud? The truth is any text can make for a good read aloud, but I would encourage careful choices based on high quality or high impact texts. Texts for read aloud should be rich in the quality of language used to communicate a message. For younger children, high quality picture books that tell the story through words and pictures will make good choices. For very young children, cumulative stories like The Napping House, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, or Brown Bear, Brown Bear are enjoyable and help students develop oral language. Poetry is written to be read aloud and makes a good choice for read aloud at any age.


When reading to high school students, poetry is always a good choice, but I would often find my read-alouds for older students in the pages of the newspaper. I would choose something of local interest or a well-written essay from the op-ed pages to read to the students and often to spur debate. The New York Times gathered a list of recommended articles from its pages for reading aloud to older students. You can find that list here.

So, what do you say? Will you join me in my resolution to read aloud to students every day? It is one of the most powerful uses we can make of our valuable instructional time.

Happy New Year and Joyous Reading to all!