Reading books aloud is one of the easiest ways I have found to help connect students with books...and it doesn't matter the age. In Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever! author Mem Fox says that reading aloud is the spark that can light the fire of literacy in children. I couldn't agree more! There are so many reasons we should be reading aloud, at home and in our classrooms. The most important reason is that, when done well, it is an enjoyable experience! We need to show our readers that reading is meant to be fun! For our youngest readers, reading aloud introduces them to the rhythm of our language while allowing them to hear what fluent reading sounds like. For older readers the benefits continue. Reading aloud can introduce readers to new titles, authors, illustrators, text structures, and genres. I can't think of a better way to build a community of readers than by sharing books together...having extended, invested discussions. And reading aloud should not end when children can read on their own!
Students in my 4th grade classroom hear me read aloud six times during the day...every day. Our day starts with a picture book read aloud, usually a book I am going to use later in the day or week for instruction. I love starting the day this way because it harnesses the energy in the room by having all our minds come together and focus. About half way through our Reading Block we will share some music, usually song lyrics from the music my students listen to. They think we are having fun...while really I have them practicing their fluency as we read the lyrics, then sing them. Okay, the dancing part is fun too!...sshh...don't tell! At the end of our Reading Block we come back together for Poetry Pause where we read poetry aloud. During Writer's Workshop students will hear me read aloud again as I use a section of a picture book or chapter book we have already read to help students learn the craft of writing. I like to read aloud from thoughtfully selected non-fiction books during Science and Social Studies units. I've even been known to bring the read aloud into Math class...but don't rat me out on that one either! We end our day with a chapter book read aloud as a way to close our day together. We are currently reading The Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs by Betty Birney.
A few of my favorite picture book read alouds when I taught Kindergarten were Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Recent favorites in our 4th grade classroom include The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith, Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser, and Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes by Margie Palatini.
Children's author Katherine Paterson once said "The best way to cultivate their tastes is to read to them, starting at birth and keeping on and on. 'Let me hear you read' is a test, 'Let me read to you' is a gift." Using read alouds can feed readers' imaginations, taking them away in the current of a good story. It can ignite the fire...and create life-long readers! Are you ready to strike the match?