Education Opinion

Make Every Day Read Aloud Day

By Donalyn Miller — February 15, 2012 4 min read
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Highlighting the need to improve literacy rates and provide access to educational opportunities for all children, LitWorld will host the third annual World Read Aloud Day on March 7, 2012. Last year, World Read Aloud Day united 200,000 people in 60 countries. Show your public support for this important literacy initiative and promote reading in local and global communities by participating in World Read Aloud Day. Suggested activities and other resources are available on LitWorld’s website.

World Read Aloud Day embraces the power of words to bring people together, and I witness this power first hand when my students gather for our daily read aloud.

Listening to Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind during the last ten minutes of class, my students hang on every word. They are fascinated with Melody’s story about her life with cerebral palsy and her struggle for acceptance and understanding.

Every day, Sam accuses me of torturing him, marveling at my ability to stop at a cliffhanger moment, close the book, and dismiss the class.

He asks, “Did you learn how to do that at teacher school, Mrs. Miller? How do you always know when to stop at the most suspenseful part?”

I love that Sam and my other students enjoy our read aloud time so much that they groan when it’s over for the day.

Instructionally, reading aloud books, poems, articles, and short stories to students gives teachers endless opportunities to highlight great writing and model reading strategies, but reading aloud provides other benefits to young readers.

Reading aloud builds community. Shared experiences create memories that connect us to each other. Reading aloud books with children offers these unifying moments. While reading together, we laugh and cry together, comrades on the same journey. My students are a reading community, bonded to each other through the books we have shared, and these connections last long after the book ends.

Reading aloud exposes children to books, authors, or genres they might not discover on their own. When choosing books to read aloud, I often pick books with the goal of leading my students to more books they can read on their own. Perennial favorites include authors like Gary Paulsen, Gordon Korman, Deborah Wiles, and Tom Angleberger. Students beg me for more books by authors I introduce during read alouds.

Read alouds are perfect opportunities to expose students to genres they often avoid like poetry, biographies and nonfiction, too. After discovering books they enjoy first through read alouds, children are more receptive to reading more books from these genres. You don’t have to read the entire book to entice readers, either. Frequently, I will read the first chapter, article, or poem from a book and place it on the marker rail. The book rarely lasts until the end of the day before an eager reader claims it.

Reading aloud supports developing readers. Realistically, no book fits every reader. Reading aloud removes roadblocks to comprehension like unfamiliar vocabulary and contextualizes words developing readers do not know. Listening to a fluent reader gives students a reading role model for their own oral reading skills, too. Since listening comprehension is higher than reading comprehension, you can read books that are a higher reading level than your students can read alone.
Reading aloud reminds children why they love reading. Sitting on your lap, encircled by love and warmth, these are our children’s first reading memories. Reading aloud reminds children that reading is pleasurable, an activity they enjoyed before reading turned into an academic chore. For students who lack positive reading experiences, read alouds are a marvelous way to introduce them to reading for pleasure.

Consider the following read alouds for your upper elementary students (4th -6th grades). Each book introduces students to a series or author they can continue reading.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson (fantasy)

BookSpeak! Poems about Books by Laura Purdie Salas (poetry)

Countdown by Deborah Wiles (historical fiction)

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (realistic fiction)

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka (memoir)

My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen (memoir)

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley (science fiction)

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (realistic fiction)

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines (poetry)

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (realistic fiction)

Titanic by Gordon Korman (historical fiction)

Winterling by Sarah Prineas (fantasy)

You have special read alouds, too--books from your childhood and books you read with your own children and students. Share your favorite read alouds in the comments, so we can add your favorites to our lists.

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.