Every time you listen to an audio book and you’re loving it, someone is reading aloud to you. And all the time you’re listening, your imagination creates pictures of settings, characters, and people. Often, you’ll find yourself stepping into a beloved character’s shoes and living life in the past, present or future. Read alouds capture our love for and desire to hear powerful stories. That’s why reading aloud to your students is a gift you offer because the book becomes a bridge enabling them to perceive and internalize your enjoyment.
As part of students’ remote learning, daily read alouds are one of the most important experiences you can offer in ELA classes and content subjects. You can video your read alouds of picture books so students can enjoy and imagine the story through words and pictures. You can also create podcasts of read alouds for students to access from your school’s website. Whether on video or podcast, students will watch and listen to books and stories you share again and again—and soon the read alouds will become familiar friends. In ELA classrooms, students should be listening to teachers read picture books, poetry, chapter books, and short texts for fifteen minutes a day. In content area subjects, short news articles, poems, and excerpts from longer texts can improve students reading and critical thinking skills.
Ten Reasons to Read Aloud Every Day
- Builds listening capacity. Students learn to listen carefully in order to enjoy a story that continues throughout the week.
- Increases recall of information and story plots. Storing plots and information in memory and then reclaiming it to better understand the text as it unfolds is a skill students can develop through listening.
- Tunes ears to literary language. Literary language differs from every day conversations and exchanges. Students have to process imagery, descriptions, and complex sentences, and this makes independent reading more enjoyable and easier.
- Develops an understanding of story structure. Listeners quickly learn that stories have beginning, middle, and end, characters with problems, exciting plots, settings, etc.
- Stimulates thinking and discussion. Whenever teachers stop and invite students to think about a part of a text and then turn-and-talk about it, they are enhancing students ability to translate thoughts and ideas into oral language that their partner can understand.
- Encourages posing questions. During teacher read alouds, as students process stories, they frequently raise questions. Teachers can make these questions visible by pausing and asking, “did this part raise questions in you minds?”
- Introduces a variety of genres. A series of teacher read alouds introduces students to diverse genres: poetry, informational texts, biography, mystery, realist, historical, and science fiction, etc. Having these experiences opens doors to choosing a variety of genres for independent reading. However, students also learn how genres work and can transfer this information to their writing.
- Helps students understand diverse cultures. Read alouds should introduce students to inclusive literature—stories about other lifestyles and cultures. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s global citizens who team to solve world problems such as pandemics, water and food shortages, coping with natural disasters, etc. .
- Develops students’ imagination. As students listen to teachers reading aloud, they create mental pictures of settings, characters, people, and information. This improves comprehension but it also offers multiple opportunities for them to develop creative thinking.
- Builds empathy and compassion. Every time listeners have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a character or person and live life with them, they can deepen their knowledge of diverse cultures–the dreams, hopes, traditions, and struggles of others. They also learn that though differences exist, there are many likenesses that can build strong bonds and friendships.
Books can take students to places in the past, present, and future that they knew nothing about—places that in one lifetime, it would be impossible to experience first hand. When we listen to countless read alouds, we become travelers and explorers who learn about places and people we would never meet.
And so, when teachers tell me, “I don’t have time to read aloud,” I tell them, “ You don’t have time to not read aloud!”