Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Sunday 26 April 2015

The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children

I have cherished memories of being a child, snuggling up to a parent and sitting there, staring at a book as it was read aloud to me. The magic of seeing squiggles on a page, pictures changing and every time the page was turned it was different! It was the start of my reading journey and I’m sure those early positive experiences of being read aloud to, were largely responsible for my life-long love of reading. I still read voraciously and my level of contentment correlates to the size of the ‘must read’ stack on my coffee table.

Fast forward, too many years to acknowledge, and reading aloud features again but this time I am reading to a group of twenty-six students in my Grade 5/6 class. I read every day for ten to twenty minutes, as they have their fruit and story break. It is an opportunity for the class to come together and share a reflective moment between blocks of core curriculum activity. I used to read to my Grade 3/4 students and never questioned whether or not it was something they would like to participate in but I was slightly sceptical that older students would view it as a pleasurable experience. I thought they would feel it was babyish to be read to, or that they would have grown out of the habit of being patient as a story was read aloud. My fears dissipated the first time I read aloud from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I looked up and every student was intently watching me and their engagement has continued on a daily basis.

Why do children of all ages enjoy being read aloud to? I believe it takes them back to that safe place from their early childhood. I think they get caught up in the reader’s enthusiasm for the book and it creates a space where everyone is sharing the same experience, as it is revealed paragraph by paragraph.
I believe the benefits of reading aloud to children of all ages are that, as an adult, you are able to model how you make meaning from the text, how you deal with words you are unfamiliar with, how to reread a passage in order to understand the context in which a word is used. An adult can encourage children to use the reading strategies of questioning, making connections, visualising, predicting, inferring and use these to discuss the themes and messages in a book. Being read to also develops a child’s ability to actively listen.

Adults have a responsibility, to a young audience, to lead by example. I demonstrate to my students the importance of reading by showing them the books that I read at home, even if it is to show them the size of James Joyce’s Ulysses to see their jaws drop. I confessed that I had to attend an evening reading group in order to understand it!  I’ll mention when I’m going to my monthly book club. There is a display next to me of other books written by the author of the book I’m currently reading to them. We also complete an Alphabox, where each box in a table is dedicated to a letter of the alphabet and we fill it in with the names of characters, settings, events and highlights, which can later be used as a writing seed. Reading aloud also enables you to discuss character and story development and have the fun of going off on many different topic tangents from your discussions.

Other books I have used as a read aloud are Kenneth Grahame’s, The Wind In The Willows; Kate DiCamillo’s, Because of Winn-Dixie; the children’s version of Homer’s, The Odyssey and they loved the gruesome endings to the original folklore by the Brothers Grimm.

The CBCA has wonderful Guides for Parents on how to choose books and read with your child. If you are not always in a position to read aloud at home, then the following websites have videos of book readings: Just Book Read Aloud and Storyline Online [created by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation]. The CBCA also features ReadingTime, which is an excellent website for book reviews, book suggestions, author interviews and other areas of interest to child and adult readers. 

Happy reading and please feel free to share your read aloud book suggestions in our comments section.

Helen Rothwell
Grade 5/6 teacher and Vice President of the CBCA Tasmania

No comments:

Post a Comment