My eight year old son has been reading The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett. I read the first few pages for him a week or so ago, and he loved it instantly. I knew that it was a bit above his reading level, but I also knew he would think it was funny and try to stick with it. He’s been reading a little each night, sometimes quietly snickering into his pillow.
One night I sat down next to him, and he handed me the book. “You read it to me tonight.”
“No,” I said. “You’re doing great with this book. Keep going.”
“I know, Mom, but I like it when you read it. I understand it better, it’s funnier. Sometimes I get a little confused and I lose my place. Just read a couple of pages so I can just enjoy it.”
As I started to read, he smiled, relaxed, and we had the best conversations about Miles and Niles and the cows of Yawnee Valley.
Yesterday we posted about the need for students to be able to contribute in order to feel like they belong to the classroom community. For our struggling learners, contribution feels difficult or may even seem pointless. These are the readers who keep quiet during book clubs or small group work. They are the ones who aren’t filling pages of their reading or writing notebooks. Their hands are never raised and their voices are often silent as they see the others around them contributing with ease and speed.
As teachers look for ways to provide all students with opportunities for contribution, one structure that affords that chance is read aloud.
Some teachers are hesitant to give up instructional time for what is seemingly a “simple act” according to Steven Layne. But, research strongly supports read aloud as a vital part of literacy instruction.
In the newest edition of Reading Today, Layne lists just some of the benefits for read aloud in every grade level. In addition to raising levels of comprehension, text awareness, fluency, writing ability, and vocabulary acquisition, he notes:
“Increases in student-teacher rapport, built during the read aloud experience, which establishes a significant and undeniable sense of community within the classroom setting.” (Volume 32, No 5)
An undeniable sense of community.
Why is that? Because it’s a shared experience? Yes. But there’s more to it than that. Read aloud offers opportunities for contribution to students who struggle with vocabulary, pronunciation, fluency or even stamina. When teachers read aloud a grade level text that may not be accessible to all students, they remove the burden of decoding. The story is uncompromised by pronunciation errors or unfamiliar words. In reading aloud, teachers set the stage for higher level comprehension work that would not have been possible for all students independently. Students who normally feel they have nothing to add are more likely to be engaged and participatory. The classroom community benefits from the same story telling, the same discussion, and all students have the same opportunity to contribute to the shared experience of a read aloud.
We hope that you will consider reading Steven Layne’s newest book, In Defense of Read Aloud.
Contribution is at the heart of belonging, and read aloud is a structure that paves the way for whole class engagement and participation.
For all of the day’s Slice of Life stories head over to Two Writing Teachers.
~ Jen and Darla