World Read Aloud Day Image (litworld.org)
“Can we read more?” or “Keep going!” To a teacher, these are two of the most beautiful sentences in the English language. The power that a great read aloud can have on students, even older students, is undeniable. I loved knowing that by using the right tone, inflection, and rhythm, every single one of my eighth graders would be mesmerized as I read to them Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”. When a classroom is filled with the excited buzz of students talking about a story, or students want to hear more, teachers know that they are sparking a joy of reading that can help build life-long readers.
Pam Allyn, founder of LitWorld, started the celebration of Read Aloud day in 2010. Today, the movement has spread into countries around the world. Pam, like other educators across the country, understands that the read aloud is an important part of a reading curriculum. In balanced literacy, the read aloud is integral to instruction.
The unfortunate reality is that some students don’t have anyone at home that will read to them, if they have any books at home at all. Students need to hear what good reading sounds like, including pacing, paying attention to punctuation, accurately pronouncing words, and reading with expression. Kids also need to hear how good readers think. Not only should teachers read books out loud, they should model comprehension strategies such as asking questions, making predictions, making connections, and drawing conclusions. When teachers stop while reading and share their own thinking about a text, it can help students learn how to do them same when they are reading independently. While listening skills was at the bottom of the list, I think most teachers would agree that listening isn’t always their students’ strongest skill. Listening comprehension is a crucial 21st century skill, which is why it is addressed in the Speaking and Listening strand of the Common Core Standards.
As Pam Allyn notes, there is a fourth reason to make read alouds a part of your reading curriculum: SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Allyn has outlined what she calls the Seven Strengths.
When taught within the context of an engaging picture book or novel, these topics can have a significant impact on building students’ empathy.
At Custom Education Solutions, you can find some amazing picture books and novels that you can use in your classroom to promote social-emotional development. In our ELA section, we have baskets dedicated to belonging in a Community of Learners, Friendship, Perseverance, Personal Identity, Families, Social Issues, Friendship, and more. We also have a section dedicated to books that can be best utilized to teach metacognitive strategies, including Ask Questions, Determine Importance, Make Inferences, Visualize, and others.
Here are some of my favorite read alouds for the seven strengths:
Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller
Since otters are my favorite animal, I had to include this cute book on the list. In this picture book, Mr. Rabbit gets some new neighbors- the Otters. He worries about how to get along with them until a little birdie tells him to “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you.” It explores the ideas of kindness, cooperation, being considerate, honesty, and playing fair.
One of Us by Peggy Moss
On Roberta’s first day at a new school, she moves from group to group, trying to find where she belongs. Starting with the girls who wear their hair straight up, to the monkey bar group, to the kids who ate pitas, she doesn’t seem to fit in with any one group. She has varied interests, and she finally finds a group of kids that are nothing like her at all, but sees the fact that they are different is the best part.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle
This poem is based on the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who was Cuba’s first female drummer.
She had the courage to pursue her dreams even when society told her that drumming wasn’t for girls.
Ish by Peter Reynolds
Seventeen year old Ben knows his friends make stupid choices, he goes along with them anyway. After following along with his friends gets Ben in trouble with the law, he must take on a new activity and community service. He reluctantly chooses knitting, and discovers that he is actually really good at it. Though he is at first embarrassed of his new hobby and tries to hide it from his friends, in the end he realizes that he doesn’t have to conform to gender stereotypes and pursues his passion proudly.
For more awesome read alouds, visit our curriculum showroom!