With a carefully chosen book, read aloud time is a magical part of the day where students can open their imagination and even reluctant readers can find joy in a story.
However, many times a read aloud is put aside due to the numerous stresses and requirements that must be fulfilled within the school day. It is easy to forget just how important the read aloud is to the classroom.
What you'll find on this page:
Why the love of reading begins with the read aloud
I met Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was in second grade and my teacher read Little House in the Big Woods each day after lunch. I'd settle in, put my head on the desk, and travel back in time.
I couldn't understand how other students could waste this precious time going to the restroom or taking a trip to the drinking fountain. To this day, I make sure everyone has had a chance to take care of business before I open our chapter book.
There was no pressure to sound out those tricky multisyllable words. I didn't have to follow along or worry about the assignment that was to come after the reading. All I needed to do was allow myself to be transported into the little cabin in the words with Laura and her family.
I could almost taste the chilly maple syrup, sticky from the snow. This ability to equalize the playing field for struggling readers is a huge. Instead of being bogged down in the frustration of an overtaxed working memory system, reluctant readers get to listen and be in the book.
This is the moment when stories and books don't represent work. They can be for enjoyment.
Benefits of read aloud in the classroom
So why do teachers read aloud, beside the fact that most of us love to read ? What are we teaching our students during this time?
There are so many benefits of reading aloud in the classroom. However, it is often one of the first things that teachers cut when things get hectic. Of course, this is understandable considering the pressure we're all currently under to make sure we cover everything…but it is also very unfortunate.
Here are just of few of the benefits of read aloud that every teacher should be aware of:
1. A good read aloud builds classroom community.
Reading aloud, sharing a story together – experiencing the suspense, the drama, the emotion – brings a classroom community closer together. It gives the teacher and students a shared experience, a common point of reference.
2. Read alouds can help reinforce instructional goals & standards.
Teachers often choose books that relate to the content being taught in the classroom. This can be especially helpful for struggling learners because they often need multiple exposures to content.
For example, reading Sarah Plain and Tall to students on the East or West coast gives them a picture of the prairie and a taste of the rural life on the plains. It is a study in the compare and contrast strategy as students see the ocean and the prairie through Sarah’s eyes.
This shared experience also levels the playing field between students who are avid readers and those who struggle to master the skill. It allows students who are slower to read the same access to literature their reading classmates take for granted.
3. Good read aloud books can introduce students to a new genre or interest.
When the teacher reads a great book to the whole class, she opens the door for conversation about the book between all students in the class. Many times this can include introducing a topic or genre that students are unfamiliar with.
In primary classrooms, this shared experience often turns into a topic of play as students re-enact the story during recess or centers. Older kids may find new hobbies or new genres they enjoy through these low-pressure exposures.
4. Read alouds model good reading habits.
There are so many important skills that a teacher models during the typical read aloud. Fluency, of course, comes to mind first. However, there are so many others as well. There are so many times when teachers stop and think aloud during the text, modeling connections and questioning strategies. They show strategies for vocabulary.
Read alouds are also great for social-emotional learning. They can help model how reading can be an emotional experience for the reader.
What to consider when planning a read aloud
It might seem like you could pick any book from your classroom library to use as your next class read aloud, and in theory, you absolutely can! However, there are some things to consider that can help make this time more impactful for students.
As you begin to make plans for the next book you'll read to your class, here are some things to consider.
Choosing a read-aloud from different genres across the school year can open the world for young learners.
A child who loves to go to the library, and heads right for the non-fiction animal shelf every visit, may discover a kindred spirit in Peter while listening to Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing.
Without the teacher to hand the keys of discovery to students, they do not know the wide world that awaits them with each trip to the library.
Listening to a good book helps children to relax and settle their bodies. As they get involved in the story, they physically relax and their minds focus on a story outside of themselves. The recess squabbles, the anticipation of their extracurricular activities, the insecurity about their place in the class all fade away as they get lost in someone else’s story.
For struggling students, who often find school a series of trials with more failures than successes, it’s a time to relax and enjoy a stress free moment in their day.
As students lose themselves in a good story, they relax and forget to be anxious about upcoming tests and activities. One of my favorite benefits of read aloud time is, they are in a better state of mind to jump back into the academic routine.
It’s safe to say that my second-grade teacher knew exactly what she was doing when she chose engaging, entertaining stories to read in those few minutes after lunch and recess.
Looking for your next read aloud books?
Now that you've read more about the numerous benefits of read aloud and how it can help the students in your classroom, I hope you're eager to find more time to read to your learners.
Looking for some excellent books for your next classroom read aloud? Check out my favorite novels and chapter books for elementary learners.
Of course, I'm always looking for great books to read and share. If you've got a favorite, add it in the comments!