Friday, February 10, 2012

World Read Aloud Day

Read Aloud, I cannot imagine a day of teaching without it. On a daily basis I am reading picture books, excerpts from chapter books, guided reading books, current event articles, and our class read aloud book (Currently Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone), to my fifth graders. Two years ago my building switched from self-contained classrooms to semi-departmentalization at fourth and fifth. My biggest frustration? It cut into my read aloud time.

As I’ve written on this blog before, I realized the power of a read aloud when I was in second grade. (1982 if you’d like to know the year). My first grade teacher, Miss Jan Tuck (or Miss Stretchberry to me) asked me to read aloud to her first grade class. I read Monster at the End of This Book to them and felt magic as I read. I have enjoyed reading to my students but also my children. I think the power of a read aloud is palpable.

My student teacher, Jackie,
reading aloud to the class.
I know many teachers question reading aloud after students read a certain age. Just as I still find it important at my home even though my boys can read to themselves, I think read aloud is critical in the older classes at school as well. In my reading classes I read aloud Extra Yarn two weeks ago. I wish I had been able to put a camera on my shoulder to capture the faces of fifth graders as this picture book unfolded in front of them. There were so many magical moments. When they saw Klassen’s “Bear and Rabbit” I had fingers pointed at me, screaming out, “I want my hat back!” When the archduke hired the robbers, there were gasps. When the text said he opened the box, before I turned the page I heard kids whispering predictions to each other. It was amazing. Picture books, fifth graders, a wonderful combination.

When should real aloud stop? In my experience, never. At the elementary grades it should be occurring daily. But even when I was in high school, I remember being read to. Ms. Flock, one of my high school English teachers read to us. I remember her reading part of A Separate Peace as I held my breath. Mrs. Lindsay, another high school English teacher, read Shakespeare to us. I clearly recall her telling us that Shakespeare was meant to be read aloud. I didn’t understand it when I’d read it at home, but she’d read to us, her green eyes flashing, and I was mesmerized. Mr. Engle, my high school Social Studies teacher, would read current events from the newspaper. Barb Dress, my methods teacher in graduate school, would read aloud from children’s literature at the end of every single class. I attribute my deep appreciate for Patricia MacLachlan’s writing to her reading the book Journey to me over two weeks. Amazing.

I think when we read aloud to our students we create wonderful models for them. We bring them to books they might not pick up on their own. We create a community around text. And, we give them role models for reading.

With this in mind, LitWorld is celebrating their third annual World Read Aloud Day on March 7, 2012. 793 million people worldwide remain illiterate. World Read Aloud Day is a day to celebrate the power of words. By celebrating this day in our classroom, we show our students the importance of literacy and the power of words.

Last year I celebrated by Skyping with several authors (Kate Messner, Riley Carney, Laurel Snyder, and with Shannon Miller’s classroom). My students loved it and I couldn’t wait to participate again.

This year I am challenging my district to see how many teachers Kindergarten – twelve can incorporate read aloud into their day. I am asking them to email me how many students they read to, and when, so we can see our reach in a tiny, rural district. I am asking my mom to be a guest reader in my classroom. And while it is, unfortunately, during state testing week, I will find pockets of time to read aloud throughout the day.

Will you join us? You can find more information at LitWorld’s website. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. Let’s join together to show the world that reading and writing belongs to us all and brings us together.

To close, let me share a favorite quote by C. Alexander London.

It’s a fact: people can survive without books. People can even have wonderful, full lives without books. But they can’t long endure without community, and community is built on stories.

My classroom community is built around the stories I read. It is how I share my love of reading with my students and how we begin to speak the language of readers. I hope you will join us on March 7th. Spread the word.