Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bringing Back Joy in Reading Aloud

Avi, the acclaimed young adult author of fantastic books like Poppy and Crispin, gave two pieces of advice to teachers to improve the love of reading in students at the TCRWP in August as a keynote speaker.

Here they are:

1.  Take voice lessons and read aloud.   In Avi's words, "make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, and make 'em wait."  Reading aloud is such an important, integral part of the reading process.  It's different than shared reading; it's different from explicit instruction.  A read aloud is simply that:  an experienced, mature reader sharing the wonderful string of words that authors bring to life in books.  In the best case scenario, it is matched with experienced, avid readers who think aloud and provide models of good thinking.

2.  Stop teaching literature and start teaching the joy of reading.  While this is not a popular opinion in the 7-12 world, I love it.  Especially after listening to the many inspirational speakers over the last year including Alan November, Dr. Yong Zhao, and Tom Welsh who spoke eloquently about the changing landscape of our students and our system, I keep thinking about the importance of teaching students how to think, communicate, collect, and publish information.  So now, I am more aware than ever the importance of teaching students the strategies, habits of mind, and skills necessary to access information and enjoy reading.  Teaching specific core novels, or classics, is not the only way to lead our students in that direction.  And, it certainly doesn't teach students how to love reading.  Bravo, Avi.  I agree.

These two pieces of advice got me thinking, because frankly, we don't spend time doing either at our school.  That's not to say that we don't have extremely talented and wonderful teachers, because we do.  

So, I started researching, researching, researching, researching to find evidence that we must, must, must include read alouds into our daily schedule.   I went back to my graduate school books and hit the Internet for information to support the advice that Avi gave and I believe.  It didn't take me long to find reams of research.  Seconds, actually.  Here are some of my favorite points and click here for a comprehensive overview of some great information and research:

  • "Reading aloud is crucial even in instances where the teacher does nothing more than read spectacular literature aloud in such a way that students listen with rapt attention, clamoring for more."  -Lucy Calkins
  • “Read aloud is the single best advertisement for reading” and “every read-aloud is an advertisement for pleasure, every work sheet is an ad for pain. If the pain outweighs the pleasure, the customers [children] go elsewhere.” - Jim Trelease 
  • "Read with expression, fluency, intonation, and good pacing so that students feel as if they are a part of the story and understand that this is what good reading sounds and feels like." -Lucy Calkins
There are many ways to build read alouds into our daily schedule.  I'm thinking through many options and swirling ideas including literacy periods, days of the week with content areas, and after school book clubs.  We need to follow Avi's advice and bring the joy of reading back into our school.  We'll give it our best shot... we've all had a tough "day".  I think we can do it, together.   :) 


  1. I love this post! I have to think about who I can share it with so that more people understand and appreciate the impact of read-alouds at ALL levels.

    1. Thanks, Melanie! You're my first blogger comment :) Reading aloud is so important, but in the middle school, we don't always make time for the things that we value most with time so short. I'm still thinking of ways that we can integrate read alouds into our daily expectations while still balancing the independent reading and explicit instruction throughout the middle school day. Let me know if you have any ideas!