The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

on December 4, 2016

As a regular reader of by Lu Ann Mc Nabb’s “Literacy & NCTE” blog” I was greatly impressed by a recent essay, titled “Read Alouds for Life” by  Rick Joseph, the 2016 Michigan State Teacher of the Year. Below I will summarize the major points of his essay and then, as usual, add my own views.


Rick Joseph, who teaches a grade 5/6 class in Birmingham Michigan, has a personal love of reading that he shares with his students and other children he comes in contact with by reading aloud to them as often as possible. Not only does he choose books that he enjoys personally, but also ones that will be new and inspiring experiences for young people.  For example, in selecting “The Junkyard Wonders” by Patricia Polacco as the Official Book of the Michigan Teacher of the year in 20i6, he hopes to spread the book’s message that all people are geniuses in their own way and should use their abilities to make the world better for everyone.

Joseph believes that all people love stories and benefit greatly from hearing them or reading them regularly. He says, “Our stories have always helped us not only to communicate, but to make sense of our world and realize our place in it.”

From his viewpoint as a teacher, he also believes that reading aloud to children is a strong factor in increasing their learning: “Stories expand children’s vocabulary, improve their ability to learn to read, and—perhaps most important—foster a lifelong love of books and reading.”

Practically, Joseph also recognizes that reading is only one element competing for attention in the lives of children. Every day they are free to choose from a number of recreational experiences on their own time: “television, movies, the internet, video games and after school activities.” So it is essential that children think of reading as a pleasure rather than a chore. Teachers can do a lot to encourage this belief by reading aloud to their students on a regular basis.

In addition, Joseph recounts a personal experience when he read to a 5th grade class at another school. When he returned the next day, a number of students greeted him eagerly, holding their own favorite books and asking if he had read them. He felt that this single episode of reading aloud to them had created a bond between him and those students that would last and encourage them all to read more.

In many ways I wish I had written this essay myself. I also wish I had read to my students more often when I was a teacher or a principal. I agree completely with Joseph’s beliefs and would go even further by exhorting teachers at all levels to do what he has done. Even high school teachers could read aloud to their classes one day a week, and college professors could introduce new books in their field by reading aloud a page or two .

All too often parents and teachers believe that reading aloud to children should stop when those young people can read on their own. They do not realize that there are strong reasons for continuing this practice, even if it must be less frequent. Because I believe as strongly as Rick Joseph in the benefits of adults reading aloud, I will list the ones he mentioned below in more formal educational terms, and add a few others that I believe in and think he would agree with.

Teachers and parents should read aloud to children of all ages in order to

Introduce them to books they would not choose on their own

Broaden the range of their reading

Build their vocabulary

Increase their knowledge of unfamiliar people, places, and experiences

Encourage the belief that reading is an enjoyable everyday activity

Accustom them to the literary structures of short stories, poems, novels, and other types of literature

Improve their knowledge and use of proper grammar and sentence structure

Help dyslexics and poor readers to get the information and skills other students have acquired through reading

For now, let’s all take off some time and read a new book.

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One response to “The Power of Reading Aloud to Children

  1. Rick Joseph says:

    Joanne,

    Thank you so much for affirming the power and importance of reading aloud at all ages and stages. I deeply value your insight, experience and wisdom. LuAnn McNabb sent me the link to your blog. Keep advocating for literacy in all its forms!

    🙂
    Rick Joseph

    Like

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