Reason Number 1: Reading Aloud Increases Test Scores
Since administrators, school board members, legislators and the United States Department of Education often rely on increased standardized test scores to defend particular classroom learning experiences and instructional practices, we begin by stating that scientifically-based reading research shows that reading aloud with older readers increases achievement on standardized test scores and helps develop students’ reading abilities. The Commission on Reading (Becoming a Nation of Readers) concluded, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success is reading aloud to children.” Reading aloud increases student’ background knowledge, introduces them to various story structures and demonstrates competent reading strategies. All of these positive effects of reading aloud contribute to students’ reading ability and achievement on standardized tests.
Reason Number 2: Reading aloud introduces readers to new titles, authors, illustrators, genres and text structures.
Young readers often do not know what is available in the world of literature, and so, it is up to us as classroom teachers, teacher educators and school librarians to help them discover new literary treasures every day. The easiest way to do this is by reading aloud to them several times everyday. We want students to make connections with authors and story characters, to become invested in the books they read, to stimulate their appetite for literature and to help develop into life-long readers.
Reason Number 3: Reading aloud builds a sense of community.
This community of readers supports the kinds of interactions and responses we want students to construct in transaction with the literature we share with them. We share our favorite books, chapter books, informational texts, authors and illustrators with our students and invite them to discover favorites on their own. As teachers, we demonstrate what competent and life-long readers do, encouraging students to share their responses and ideas with us and other students. In essence, reading aloud and the community of readers we develop creates a “space” for discussions to occur, for relationships to become established, for diverse interpretations to be shared and for students to learn to respond emotionally to the literature we share.
Reason Number 4: Reading aloud provides opportunities for extended discussions.
By sharing a wide range of ideas, students learn that there is more than one main idea in literature and that through discussion, we learn more about a book than we are able to on our own. Vygotsky suggested that what individuals can do with the help of others is greater than what they can do alone. This theory provides the foundation for the learning that occurs in a community of readers.
Reason Number 5: Reading aloud with older readers is a pleasurable experience.
Learning does not have to be boring and confusing. Reading aloud is a pleasurable experience where students can laugh at stories, share the challenges of their favorite characters and become involved in the twists and turns of a good story. Through reading aloud, teachers are able to demonstrate the joys of reading literature, their love of particular pieces of literature and create a pleasurable experience for readers in their classrooms.
Reason Number 6: Reading aloud connects readers with content area subjects.
Reading aloud with older readers provides a foundation for the knowledge base needed to understand content area subject matter. Reading aloud is also an easy way to introduce new concepts to students. Picture books have been published that cover a vast array of topics from aardvarks to zebras. Books about geology, family relationships, the American Revolution, Paraguay, dolphins and many other topics are available in informational and fictional structures. Reading aloud provides easy access for students into new topics and provides an opportunity for students to discuss new ideas and offer questions as they discover new information and concepts. Picture books are well suited for content area discussions. These books increase students’ interest in new concepts and encourages them to delve into these topics on their own.
Reason Number 7: Reading aloud demonstrates response strategies.
Reading aloud with older readers allows teachers to demonstrate the types of responses to literature we want older readers to construct and share. Students need to learn how to respond to literature in new ways and from new perspectives. Simply finding the main idea may help them on a standardized test, but won’t help them become part of a community of readers. As classroom teachers, we want readers to be able to interrogate a piece of literature from multiple perspectives, discuss their ideas with other classmates and be able to enter into dialogue with other classmates about the ideas being discussed. We want students to become explorers of literature, reading to understand the story as well as how the story was constructed.
Reason Number 8: Reading aloud increases readers’ interest in independent reading.
So many of our students have become avid independent readers because of the invitations we provide during classroom read alouds. In fact, many of the books we chose to use in our first years as teachers were read to us in our teacher education classes. We read what we are exposed to and what is available to us. Reading aloud is the key into the world of literature and it is our duty to open the door for our students.
Reason Number 9: Reading aloud provides access to books that readers may not be able to experience on their own.
Every book is available to every student if we simply alter the approach to reading it. When students can’t read a book on their own, we can read it to them. Reading aloud provides an important scaffold as young readers increase their independent reading abilities. By reading books aloud with students, we allow them to focus on the meanings being constructed rather than their ability to decode text. Students eventually develop knowledge concerning how books work, the type of “book language” contained in stories, directionality and other concepts of print and story elements and structures. These concepts and abilities play an important role as readers develop into independent, successful readers.
Reason Number 10: Reading aloud provides demonstrations of oral reading and fluency.
As classroom teachers, we are students primary guide into the world of literature. Not that we all have to sound like James Earl Jones as we read each book, however, we are demonstrating the ways that reading a book aloud sounds. As skilled readers, we read aloud with fluency and confidence, two of the skills we want our students to develop. We use voices to bring the stories to life. We demonstrate the way that stories are constructed and the way language in books differs from that in oral speech.
Reason Number 11: Reading aloud helps readers understand the connection between reading in school and reading in life.
Stories are an important part of our lives both in and out of school. We tell others our own stories so that they may get to know us. Authors share stories so we may get to know them. Authors share their lives through the books we read, inviting students to make connections between the story worlds they create and the world in which we live. The ability to connect one’s reading and one’s life is an important skill readers use to make sense of their literary experiences.
Reason Number 12: Reading aloud provides demonstrations of quality writing.
As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you read, for that is how you will write.” The books we read aloud provide powerful models for the types of writing we will do. Reading aloud increases students’ vocabulary, which in turn helps them to become better writers. Using authors as “mentors,” students are able to learn from a variety of writing styles and elements of craft.
Reason Number 13: Reading aloud supports readers’ development as readers.
Besides being an enjoyable experience that builds community, helps readers respond to literature, exposes readers to new titles and authors, invites readers into the world of literature and develops life-long readers, reading aloud helps readers become better readers. Reading aloud with older readers provides an opportunity to hear diverse interpretations, share ideas with other students and expand their own interpretive skills. As we read aloud, we are able to demonstrate the things that competent readers do. These demonstrations are powerful lessons for developing readers.