Creating Stronger Readers Through Read-Aloud

Creating Stronger Readers Through Read-Aloud

A teacher’s insights:

In this insightful blog, Sharon shares her experiences and strategies for incorporating read-alouds into her classroom routine when she taught students in years 3-7. She emphasises the importance of literature in shaping young minds and fostering empathy and imagination.

Sharon discusses the benefits of reading aloud, including improved comprehension and language skills, and offers practical tips for selecting and effectively sharing stories with her students.

She concludes with child-friendly reasons why listening to read-alouds enhances reading proficiency and enriches the learning experience.

Comments by Sharon as a year 3-7 teacher:

“I have just sat down in the Reading Corner in my classroom. In my hands I hold the book that I am currently reading aloud to my students. They recognise this as the cue that I will soon be reading to them and their movement to the Reading Corner indicates their eagerness and anticipation.

All is calm, all is quiet. I speak my first words in three minutes. And they are not even my words. They are the words of the author – I am simply there to pass them on. I pass on three chapters’ worth of words to my students, introducing them to new words, sharing with them the rhythm of the words, recreating for them the author’s message using the author’s very words. Without moving, we have all created picture in our minds, felt for another, experienced the power and wonder of language.

  • I know, because when I read about a character holding her head in her hands, I see some of my students doing the same with their heads.
  • I know because I hear them being a character.
  • I know because I hear their language, hear them experimenting with and exploring words.
  • I know because our discussions, their own stories, the pictures they paint and the models they make reflect the messages they have received and the sense they have tried to make of their big, wide world.”

Literature benefits students

Literature involves the use of language and the imagination to represent, shape and explore human experience. Literature can be based on actuality or fantasy and includes written, spoken and visual texts. Literature texts provide readers, viewers and listeners with rich meanings and significant imaginative experiences.

Why do I share literature texts with children?

I know the value and importance of reading as a skill, but reading goes far beyond being a skill. I want students to be passionate about reading because they understand that literature makes new worlds available to them.

These texts:

  • Present a range of views of the world.
  • Provide insights into the experiences of others.
  • Promote the development of self-understanding.
  • Take the reader/listener/viewer into an imaginative world.
  • Provide a means of exploring ideas and issues.
  • Stir the emotions.
  • Provide models of rich language use.
  • Teach children how texts operate.

Why read aloud?

Reading aloud offers something to all students, of all abilities, enabling them to achieve greater success as independent readers. I believe reading aloud to students:

  • Enables them to focus on the story, without the labour of reading. Students gain a higher level of understanding through listening to a text, through having the opportunity to discuss it with a wide range of peers, and through being guided in their explanation of it.
  • Allows them to have a shared literature experience, thereby providing a common focus for discussion, exploration and developing understanding.
  • Enables the modelling of reading
  • Provides a purposeful context for discussing and responding to literature.
  • Allows for texts to be heard that couldn’t be managed independently.

Choosing a text

I make conscious choices about the literature I will share with my students through the read-aloud experience.  Text selection obviously requires knowledge of a broad range of texts, in order to ensure a balanced and varied range of literature experiences.

Using the following strategies has helped me become familiar with a range of texts from which I can then make appropriate selections:

  • Each term I aim to read a range of children’s texts for myself. (I set myself a target to reach by the term’s end). Quiet reading time provides an excellent opportunity for such reading.
  • I keep a record of the texts I read (noting title, author, genre)
  • I ask the school librarian (or public librarian) to recommend texts and to inform me about new texts in the library.
  • I make regular visits to a children’s bookshop (or listen to podcasts) to hear about new texts and to browse through the age-arranged fiction.
  • I use my English budget to buy texts for the class.
  • Through their Reading Journals (in which their home and school reading is recorded) and through Reading Conferences, I take an interest in what my students are reading.
  • I buy children’s books for myself so that I have them to draw on.
  • I involve myself in professional development (author visits, book launches, conferences, workshops, online courses)

Developing a knowledge of a range of texts, having an ever-growing record of literature texts read (and viewed) and having a supportive network of literature experts makes the task of choosing the most appropriate text far more manageable.

Some ‘Read-Aloud’ strategies:

My reading aloud procedure has been developed through practice and continual reflection on the best ways to enhance the process of bringing another’s story to life. It has also come from the joy of wanting to share literature with students.

Having selected a text:

  • Always read it first yourself – it is not enough that someone has recommended it to you.
  • You must believe in this text’s worth to invest in it considerable personal and student time.
  • Read it to yourself, or practise reading it aloud, before reading it to your students.
  • Have your own copy! There is nothing worse than never knowing where the text is.
  • Program/commit daily time to this text.
  • Have further copies available to allow a few students to follow as you read or to borrow at another time. They become valued items!
  • Be expressive – explain the meaning of words through simple, non-intrusive actions.
  • Make the ground rules for shared text time explicit (e.g. sitting on the floor, hands to self, eye contact, no interruptions). Consequences should also be explicit.
  • Give background information before the reading session, where appropriate.
  • Allow for a brief review of the previous day’s reading (student/self) if there is no pre-reading task
  • Provide visuals, where appropriate and possible (maps, illustrations, diagrams).
  • Value children’s incidental conversations, questions, explorations. You’ll find they appear at the most unpredictable times.

RESOURCES

  • Podcast: Mem Fox on Capturing Hearts and Minds Through Literature. Podcast
  • Podcast: Read Aloud: A Critical Instructional Strategy. Podcast
  • Podcast: New Books to Inspire Young Readers. Podcast
  • PDF: Reading Tools: Our Class Reading Charts: PDF
  • Video: Triple Treat texts for 4,5 year olds read aloud: Video

READ ALOUD BENEFITS – IN CHILD FRIENDLY LANGUAGE

  • Experience New Worlds: Read-alouds introduce you to different perspectives and experiences, expanding your understanding of the world.
  • Understand Yourself Better: Stories help you relate to characters and situations, promoting self-awareness and empathy.
  • Imagination Exploration: Dive into imaginative worlds created by authors, sparking your creativity and curiosity.
  • Explore Ideas and Issues: Books allow you to think about and discuss important topics and themes.
  • Emotional Connection: Stories evoke feelings, helping you connect deeply with characters and their journeys.
  • Language Enrichment: Listening to rich language in stories improves your vocabulary and language skills.
  • Learn How Texts Work: By listening to different types of stories, you understand how they’re structured and written.
  • Focus and Understanding: Listening to read-alouds helps you focus on the story without the challenge of reading, enhancing comprehension.
  • Shared Experience: Reading together creates a common ground for discussions and understanding among classmates.
  • Expand Your Book Knowledge: Regular exposure to a variety of texts helps you discover new books and authors, enriching your reading life

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