Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Importance of Reading Aloud

World Read Aloud Day is upon us (info HERE) and I am once again reminded of the power of the read aloud. I grew up hearing books read aloud to me. My parents read aloud to us when we were young, and even as we grew. My teachers would read aloud to us in front of the class as the stories danced through my head. And I would, in turn, go home and read to my “class” of stuffed animals – practicing my read aloud voice, working on how to show a picture book so that I could read it and “they” could see the pictures at the same time. 

I’ve always known the importance of a read aloud.

As a grad student getting my degree in elementary education, I still remember my teacher, Barb Dress, reading Patricia MacLachlan’s Journey to us. I was mesmerized by her voice, MacLachlan’s story. At the age of twenty-two, that read aloud time was my favorite part of class.

Fast forward to my time as a teacher. I spend time each year deliberating what book will be our first read aloud of the year. And while I wish I could read novels to all three of my classes all year long, the time I’m given just doesn’t allow for it. Read aloud time in my other two classes consists of picture books, which are fabulous in their own right. Read aloud time for my homeroom is a mixture of picture books and novels. It is magical.

So far this year we’ve gone to school with Albie in Absolutely Almost, and had our heart broken and mended with him. We rode the train with Piper and Anna in Mark of the Dragonfly and watched a friendship grow in spite of all of the odds. We’ve laughed along with Jon Scieszka and his brothers in Knuckleheads and told stories of our own crazy exploits with our siblings. And we’ve met an amazing squirrel named Ulysses and an equally amazing girl named Flora and realized that friendship has no boundaries. Just this week we have learned about a girl named Ally and found the power of a good friend, and a good teacher. We can’t wait to learn more about her.

Read aloud time is sacred. It brings my class closer together and bonds us as a family through stories. I have even had a parent tell me this year that her child was in tears when he was sick because we were at a pivotal moment in Mark of the Dragonfly and he was going to miss it. (I read a picture book that day so he wouldn’t.) I’ve had students beg me not to have a substitute read the read aloud books because, “It just isn’t the same.” Reading aloud – I think it is the single most important thing you can do in your classroom. My year is not the same without it. But don’t take just my word for it, here’s the brilliant Kate DiCamillo with her thoughts on reading aloud.

Read Aloud. Every day. Every age. Just do it.