Read Alouds: Supporting Literacy One Book at a Time
Reading lots of books aloud is my number one tip for increasing interest in books and reading. Not just for when children are preschoolers but throughout the elementary years, or longer. Reading aloud, for as long as your child allows it, has lots of benefits:
- gives your child the opportunity to “read” the books she wishes she could but can’t yet
- shows that you value reading
- conditions your child to associate reading with pleasure
- creates background knowledge
- builds vocabulary
You may have stopped reading to your child when he first learned to read. If so, I encourage you to start again.
The following was written initially as a promotion for picture books. Although picture books are GREAT for read-alouds, lots of other books (chapter books, biographies and other nonfiction) are great, too. The main criteria for a good read-aloud?
- Your child wants to hear it—essential!
- You want to read it—nice, but secondary to #1.
So…what’s so good about read-alouds?
They are fun. Read alouds provide a pocket of time in which you move into a different world: fantasy, foolishness, humor, drama, unknown places, courage …
They are motivating. When my son was in elementary school, he was a struggling reader, so I read to him all the time. Eventually, he developed good reading skills. By then, he was eager to read because he’d loved the stories we’d shared for so many years.
They are easier to follow. Sometimes books can be confusing if a child doesn’t have the background knowledge. The beauty of read alouds is you can stop and clarify. This can be direct, “Do you understand this part?” or indirect, “I don’t quite get this part. I’m going to read it again.” or “I’m confused. Do you get this?”
They often introduce new vocabulary and expressions. Books tend to be filled with words and expressions kids (and often adults) don’t know. This can be a real motivation-buster. When you read a book aloud, you can stop and talk about new words. Don’t know the word either? See if you and your child can figure it out from context or look it up. Or, if it doesn’t really seem to matter, just keep reading.
They introduce a variety of writing styles, authors, and illustrators. Sometimes classroom teachers don’t have the time to read a wide variety of books with their students (a sad but real situation.) No problem! You and your child can read whatever you choose
They provide an excuse to stay close. This is true no matter what type of book you choose. Picture books demand to be seen. And even though reading aloud a chapter book with can be done from the other side of the room, why keep that distance? Sitting close is the way to go.
They provide windows to complex subjects and ideas. Well-written books can introduce, clarify, raise questions, challenge and spark interest in all kinds of subjects: science, history, philosophy, emotions, math, attitudes, cultures …
Repeating myself: I meant it when I said being interested in a book yourself is not necessary when choosing a good book to read aloud. Your child’s interest is much more important and her choices may very well expand your own interests.
When my son was little, we decided to read aloud THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame. Fairly quickly, I discovered that this book was not easy to read aloud. I kept wishing that my son would lose interest. No chance. However, I soon got caught up in the magic. To this day, I get a little misty thinking about how much we both loved that book.
Celebrate the Power of Words and Stories and Take Action for Global Literacy with LitWorld
March 5, 2014 is World Read Aloud Day. It is sponsored by LitWorld, a global literacy organization based in New York City. World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people.
World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education
and access to books and technology.
By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.
To learn more and to register to participate in World Read Aloud Day, please visit by clicking HERE