Reading Aloud in School: An Endangered Practice?
At the recent PA School Librarians Association (PSLA) Annual Conference, I read a worrisome tweet from a participant in a concurrent session. Some Pennsylvania librarians reported that administrators recently told them that reading aloud isn’t “rigorous enough.” Not even as part of a larger unit or with young students.
Librarians in this session saying they ARE NOT ALLOWED TO READ TO CHILDREN unless following up with a project/assignment. WHAT?!? :/ #psla15
— Love, Tiff (@TiffanyE) May 2, 2015
I was horrified to hear that statement, however, it wasn’t the first time, I’ve heard similar whispers about “rigor” in relation to library class time and reading aloud. It’s particularly frustrating to hear when in some districts (not mine), the teacher-librarian is viewed as “just coverage” for a classroom teacher’s planning period, regardless of how rigorous (or not) the information literacy instruction is.
Anyway, in my district, the curriculum we teach is accepted as part of the wider district curriculum, and that brings along all kinds of language like “rigor” and “accountability” and “assessment data” and “SLOs” (or Student Learning Outcomes). I’m *SO* over those education buzzwords.
I still read aloud to kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students, and I base my research and information literacy instruction on the books I read.
Here are 3 reasons why reading aloud is more important than ever in a child’s education:
- Reading aloud builds common experiences and a shared vocabulary. For students who are lucky enough to attend our school for multiple years (or even long enough to experience 2 of my library units), I often refer back to characters and events in a book we previously read. Of course, I also explain the background and give the book title and author for newer students to read on their own, too.
- Reading aloud models fluency, voice, and how to enjoy a book without the pressure of “accountability.” When children listen to a story, it should be for the sheer enjoyment, not for a comprehension quiz. Listening to a book being read models to students how to read well, which is undeniably helpful in learning to read.
- It’s fun. I know, I know, that’s not a popular pedagogical reason to give administrators. But I teach children who are over-scheduled, over-tested, and under the age of 11. I dare any administrator to think back to when they were 8 years old, and see what they remember most. My guess is it wasn’t “rigorous” by today’s standards.
Resources on the Importance of Reading Aloud
There is significant evidence in educational research that reading aloud matters, and here some resources to advocate to parents, administrators, and community members.
Mem Fox’s excellent read-aloud lesson, ten read-aloud commandments, and her long (but worth it) article, “Like mud, not fireworks”…in fact, just go read all the “Teachers” and “Parents” sections of her website. They’re fabulous!
Reading Is Fundamental’s (aka RIF) articles on reading aloud, including research from the U.S. Department of Education
Scholastic Parent’s March 2015 blog post about reading to older children, even after they can read themselves, which I posted to my library Facebook page.
A homeschooling mom’s April 2015 blog post about reading aloud highlights some of the benefits for parents reading to their children, but more importantly, she explains why reading *good* children’s literature matters when reading to children.
Of course, there are many more resources in educational research journals, but the above links are readily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, regardless of access to database subscriptions. If you have another reading aloud resource to share or have successfully advocated to stakeholders about this topic, please share your knowledge in the comments!