Research shows that reading aloud consistently at all ages helps with word recognition, comprehension, higher order thinking skills, and so much more.
I decided to experiment with this idea during my third year of teaching when I was a literacy support teacher for sixth and seventh grade. I was working with students who were below proficient on standardized tests, who struggled with reading, and who didn’t like or want to read. I chose my books carefully (Divergent in 6th and Double Identity in 7th) and started my read aloud. I would read for five minutes at the beginning of every class and we would have a quick discussion based on a question.
To this day, this was the best thing I have ever done as a teacher. It was amazing to see how well my students responded to this activity every day. The fact that I made reading aloud part of my classroom routine was not only good classroom management, but also allowed kids time to appreciate and develop a love of reading. Unfortunately, my supervisor at the time did not agree with my use of class time, and at the end of the year I was non-renewed because I wasn’t a “good fit”. Even now almost three years later, I still wouldn’t change how I spent those first five minutes of my class.
Today’s post is about incorporating reading aloud into daily classroom and home life, so this is meant for both parents and teachers. Sometimes reading aloud isn’t just the adult reading to the child, but can be the child reading to the adult, or a child reading to another child.
- Class read aloud. For the last few years I have incorporated a read aloud during the first few minutes of my classes. They should be between 5-7 minutes (depending if you have a block schedule or not) and each session should end in some sort of a discussion to check for understanding. This can be done at all grade levels (yes, even high school). Some things to remember for a class read aloud:
- Make sure the book is appropriate for the class. The text should be equivalent to the grade level or a little higher. Since the book is being read aloud along with a discussion after every reading, you can challenge students with a more complex text.
- The book is engaging! It’s hard to carve out class time in general, let alone every day, so you want to make it worth the time. Choose a text that will have students excited to read, and that you enjoy.
- Be consistent with the time. When I taught in a block schedule I would read for seven minutes then post a question for kids to respond to for about a minute, then we would discuss answers for two minutes. When I taught in a 40- minute class, I cut my reading time down to five minutes and response sharing down to one minute. It’s so important to keep the consistency because students will get used to the timing. However, some days when my timer goes off my students beg for a few more minutes. It’s so hard to say no when this happens, and almost every time I give in, although I warn them they may have additional work, but they never seem to mind. As a teacher, use your judgment. Some days you can read for a few more minutes, others it’s just not possible, but you want to keep the “usual” reading time as consistent as possible. **Save time on student sharing by using technology tools like Padlet, Google classroom, Random Name Picker, etc.**
- Recap! Always make sure you recap the last reading before moving on to a new section. This is a great pre-reading strategy to help students prepare for the next reading, and it also catches up any kids who missed a reading.
- Be excited! I think one of the reasons why my read aloud times were so
successful was because I was legitimately excited for them myself, and my kids knew it.
- Small group read aloud. For upper elementary, middle school, and high school lots of lessons involve analyzing a text as a small group. This is a great opportunity for students to read aloud to one another. Most of the time, the set up of this activity involves students reading, highlighting, and discussing a text and answering questions, so all you would need to do is have students incorporate reading the text aloud. Depending on the groups, I either let students determine who reads what sections (everyone has to read something) or I instruct them to read one paragraph or one page each.
- Partner read aloud. This is often a concept seen in elementary classrooms because of the many benefits, but it can be used in all grades. Students are able to hear and see reading habits of a peer. The teacher can choose partners based on reading level, high student and low student, so students can learn from one another. The teacher can also give the option for students to choose a partner, allowing them to work with someone they are comfortable with, which is half the battle with some students.
Parents. Reading aloud is a great way to help your child with reading skills and develops a love of reading.
- Pick a time to read. Most families are super busy all day and don’t have a chance to really sit down until bedtime, which is what makes it the most popular time for family reading. Whatever time works for your family, keep it consistent. Some nights it will change or not happen at all, but for the most part keep the time consistent.
- Pick a spot. Along with the time consistency, you want to dedicate a special reading place. It could be your bed, the child’s bed, or a special chair.
- Involve the whole family. Kids learn so much just by watching their parents, so it’s good to have the whole family involved in reading. The goal is to get everyone involved in the read aloud in some way, even if it’s just listening along. I’ve been reading aloud to Molly since she was born, and we make it a point to read every night before we put her to sleep. I’m normally the one that reads to her because my husband isn’t a big book reader, but he will read articles and blogs. He knows how important reading is to me, so he participates by choosing the books and listening on the floor.
- On the go reading. Sometimes reading at home just isn’t possible, and that’s okay. Growing up I spent most of my time in the car traveling from one activity to another. This is still true for many parents today, so it can be challenging to get some read aloud time in. However, it is possible. Option 1: Read in the car. My mom actually had my sister read aloud to her while she would drive. It was a great way for my sister to practice reading aloud because my mom could help her with decoding and reading comprehension. My sister would stop and ask questions periodically and the two of them would discuss the reading. It did take them a while to finish the book, but those car ride sessions still allowed them to practice great read aloud strategies. Option 2:Read at the event. Parents are always waiting for one activity to end and another to begin, so use this down time to read with your child. The great part about technology today is that so many books and articles are available digitally, so you always have a text at your fingertips. You could also leave a bag of books in your car for situations like this. This would be best for younger children because they rely on pictures to comprehend the stories, and many digital books are tiny so the visual is hard to see.
Usborne knows how important reading aloud is to children, so they have a whole collection dedicated to read aloud books.
*Aesop’s Stories for Little Children
If you’re interested in purchasing any of these titles, or other Usborne product, click here.