by Megan McCaffrey, Katy E. Hisrich, Governors State University
For the previous five months, we gathered data from Early Childhood and Elementary Teachers regarding characteristics and practices of read-alouds in their classrooms. Using the data from our survey and other research, we will focus on a key aspect of read-alouds in each weekly blog, sharing guidelines for best practices and providing applications through examples, as well as offering a variety of resources. This month we will cover:
Week 1: Benefits and Importance of Read-Alouds
Week 2: Characteristics of Read-Alouds
Week 3: Books for Read-Alouds
Week 4: Planning & Instruction for Read-Alouds
Week 5: Extending Read-Alouds
Benefits & Importance of Read Alouds
In 1986, Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading declared that “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Backed by research, this statement highlights the importance read alouds play in the development of reading. The list of benefits while not exhaustive is extensive.
The most obvious benefit of a read aloud is that it brings enjoyment to those being read to. Everybody loves a good story. Almost from the beginning of time stories have been one of our most fundamental methods for communicating with one another. Whenever a person hears a story, they naturally try to relate it to one of their existing experiences. Listeners make connections with stories and in a reciprocal relationship stories validate our experiences and our experiences provide for new stories to share. While listening to stories, many areas of our brain are activated by the stimulus of living through a vicarious experience. Stories innately develop a listener’s interest in books (stories) and the desire to be a reader.
Read alouds provide opportunities to build community within the classroom while also learning about other places and cultures. Stories help to build a sense of community when they are shared by a group. Stories help explain how things work, people make decisions, justify decisions, persuade, understand our planet and others, create identities, and define social values among many others explanations for the way our world works.
Reading aloud has many instructional and literacy benefits in addition to the social benefits mentioned. For teachers, read alouds offer an engaging platform to model literacy strategies and fluency for students. Repeated readings provide opportunities for scaffolding so that instruction can be of a developmentally appropriate nature and amount. Direct literacy benefits to children include: developed understanding of how a story works, familiarity with book conventions, vocabulary development, and an increase in comprehension.
Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (2001). Text talk: Capturing the benefits of read-aloud experiences for young children. Reading Teacher, 55, 1, 10-20.
Dickinson, D. K., & Smith, M. W. (1994). Long-term effects of preschool teachers’ book readings on low-income children’s vocabulary and story comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 29, 2, 104-22.
Neuman, S., Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2000). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
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