Monday, February 1, 2010

Reader's Workshop: The Importance of a Read Aloud

When I was in Grade Five, the teacher-prinicpal at our school was a firm believer in reading aloud to students. But, unlike the other teachers who chose books which were funny and gross and popular, she picked books we would never undertake on our own. I vividly remember hearing Animal Farm by George Orwell, and although we knew little about communism, we knew from the story that there was right and wrong and sometimes people in power went wrong.

To me, the Read Aloud is one of the most powerful tools we have to build a community of readers. Over the past four years I've watched kids cry and laugh and move closer together as we read. Sometimes, the book really means something to the students and in a couple of cases reading aloud has been credited with 'getting the kids to read'.

A read aloud is a chance for me to model reading to the students. I am the best reader in the room, I have been reading the longest. So it's important that they see I value that skill enough to want to share it with them. It's also a chance to build a shared vocabulary - to create a community of people who understand what it means when we talk about James Adams and learning to swim, or when we say 'Precious . . . ' and talk about putting the ring on and becoming invisible.

The Hobbit: 70th Anniversary EditionSo often, reading aloud leads to more reading. I had a grade 7 class who devoured a series of books after I read the first one to them. I had 10 and 11 year old boys racing each other to borrow the library's Lord of the Rings after I read The Hobbit .

Some people think we should stop reading aloud after a certain age, that maybe children won't want to listen to reading anymore, or that it will take up too much time which we could be stuffing with the other things. But how many opportunities will we miss? How many stories will go unshared?

I meant this to be a serious, well thought out, instructional piece of writing. Instead, I suppose it became a love letter to reading aloud. To my memories of sitting in a group listening to Pippi Longstocking in Grade 3. To Friday when we read Parvana (Breadwinner) by Deborah Ellis, and the thunder rumbled, just as the Taliban arrived. To the enthusiasm of my PLN when I mentioned this topic on Twitter yesterday, who all had stories of reading and being read to.

So take the time, the ten or fifteen minutes once or twice or five times a week. Choose a book with rich characters and setting, a book which students may not choose for themselves. Choose a book which students will care about. And read.

@PaulWHankins on Twitter was kind enough to provide me with this link from Education Week about reading aloud to older students - It's a great, thoughtful read. Go follow @PaulWHankins on Twitter too.

Read more about Reader's Workshop here
Read Aloud Master List


KimY said...

I can attest to the power of reading to your class from what I see in the LRC. I usually know which teachers read to their classes and what they are reading by observing their students. These students flock to the shelves to find another copy of the class novel to read themselves or they track down other books by the author they are listening to or even search for similar genres. They are excited about reading.

Reading to your class and helping them to develop a passion for books and reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give your students...

A Reader's Community

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Queensland, Australia
A Reader's Community is a place to find ideas, information, resources and recommendations about Reader's Workshop.

This Blog has five main types of posts.

About Reader's Workshop - information about Reader's Workshop in my classroom and how it works

Reader's Workshop Tools - resources you can access and use to help you with reader's workshop

Book talks - Book recommendations of two or three books centred around a particular theme

Book letters - in-depth reviews of one particular book

Reader's Workshop Links - Short links lists to help you find more information
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