by Anna Gratz Cockerille
The great Cynthia Rylant, author of Every Living Thing, When I Was Young in the Mountains, Poppleton, and so many more, has said this about reading aloud to children: “Read to them. Take their breath away. Read with the same feeling in your throat as when you first see the ocean after driving hours and hours to get there. Close the final page of the book with the same reverence you feel when you kiss your sleeping child at night. Be quiet. Don’t talk the experience to death. Shut up and let those kids think and feel. Teach your children to be moved."
Those who teach in balanced literacy classrooms can attest: there is no time in the day quite like read aloud time. This is a special time, in which a teacher gathers the entire class, reads aloud to them, and leads them in thinking and talking about the text. It is a time in which teachers invite children into the world of real, grown-up reading and model the multitude of reactions, thoughts, and feelings that reading evokes. A good read aloud can bring a group together like nothing else, can provide a foundation of camaraderie, trust, and respect in a classroom.
But reading aloud is not just for emotional escape. Reading aloud also acts as a foundation for intense reading, thinking, and talk work. Because students need not struggle to read the text on their own, they are free to think more deeply about the text, to talk more deeply about it, and to engage in these experiences alongside readers who may or may not be at a similar reading level.
So, why have a Twitter chat about reading aloud when summer is upon us? Because choosing read aloud texts is not something to be taken lightly, and summer is the perfect time to create the space needed to read, reflect upon, consider, and plan the books that will become part of the fabric of your classroom through read aloud.
When choosing read aloud texts, consider adding the following to your list:
- Texts that will provide new information and ideas for your students, such as information books that will turn them on to discovery and wonder.
- Texts that will unite your students as a group because of their depth, humor, complexity, or all of the above.
- Texts that are just a bit out of reach of what you predict your students will be able to read on their own. Texts that will challenge them and provide the opportunity to practice the thinking work they will need to do when they are reading more difficult books.
- Texts that are simple, fun, and silly. Texts that celebrate relaxing into a quick, easy read from time to time.
- Texts that model the wide variety of reading that exists in the world: articles, blog posts, poems, and reviews in addition to picture books and novels.
This Wednesday, the brilliant TCRWP staff developers Brooke Gellar and Celena Larkey will host a Twitter chat to help you to plan your best year of reading aloud possible. You’ll leave the chat armed with a wealth of book ideas and an inspiring list of ways to plan ahead to ensure your read aloud time is as rich as possible.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @brooke_geller and @celenula to chat about the best read aloud texts and tips for developing a year-long curriculum in reading tomorrow evening.
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Anna Cockerille is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer based in New York City. She has taught in K–8 classrooms all over the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Auckland, New Zealand. Anna has been a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP) and an adjunct instructor for the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. She writes at Two Writing Teachers.
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