“Reading aloud is for little kids,” I’ve heard a some educators say. “Students need to be able to read independently without having to be read aloud to. Comprehension comes from independent reading.” While this argument seems to be rooted in truth, it is in fact completely false. Research proves that students learn to read more fluently when they hear their teacher correctly and appropriately read aloud text. Students need modelling to learn a new skill. We can’t expect our students to learn how to accurately pronounce and read words if they haven’t heard them spoken aloud correctly. Reading aloud also models effective reading practices for our students. If they see and hear us as adults reading, they may also be more apt to want to read. Text engagement can also be fostered from reading aloud to students. If they hear the story read aloud, they may be able to better visualize it mentally. The ability to discuss a text aloud with students while reading is an easy and effective way to formatively assess students regarding their understanding of the text. It also provides opportunities to highlight important literary elements in a text. Students gain reading and comprehension skills practice from being read aloud to. When interviewed about it, students noted how much they enjoyed being read aloud to as a student at any level.
In the sixth grade, we read aloud to our students in Humanities class regularly. For each unit, we use a book or text that aligns with our guiding questions. We are currently reading the novel Witness by Karen Hesse about a small community in Vermont dealing with racial and ethnic issues in the 1920s. The story is told through the poetic perspectives of various characters. While it is difficult to keep all the characters straight, the students enjoy listening to the story and discussing the big ideas within its pages.
Today we engaged in a great discussion regarding the use of powerful words used to negatively describe different groups of people. We wondered why they used such emotive language during the 1920s. The students were engaged in the text as they also practiced using a reading strategy we introduced last week: Making Predictions. The students used their Writing Notebooks to record their predictions as we read. While our read aloud served many purposes today, all of them helped our students grow as readers.
While we often think of reading aloud as only beneficial to younger elementary-aged students, it is helpful for all students. It helps foster creativity and emotional stimulation within students. If we want to effectively help our students grow and develop as readers, we need to read aloud to them. Studies show that students stop reading or become apathetic about it in middle school. So, let’s make reading cool and awesome again. Let’s show students how much fun reading can be so that they want to be lifelong readers.