Take a moment and think back to when you were a child. Who were the individuals that read to you when you were a child? What was your experience like? What was your reading environment? Who read the most to you?
To be honest, I do not have many memories of being read to. However, the memories that are evoked from my childhood in regards to read alouds were from Kindergarten. My favorite memories involve two specific readings. The first one was of the Junie B. Jones chapter books by Barabara Parks. My teacher would join us seated on the carpet (I want to say it was after nap time), and we read a chapter of Junie B. Jones each day. Some days, we read two chapters, and that was a good day! My class loved Junie B. Jones, and we especially loved stating the first sentence of each book proudly because it was the same for each, “My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all”. As a Kindergartener, knowing and saying that line made me feel like a teacher myself. I loved it!
The second book that I remember clearly from Kindergarten was the Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst. I enjoyed the adventure of this book as well as the rhymes that are contained within it. My teacher would fluctuate her voice to depict the adventure of the Gingerbread Girl, and in this book, there was a line that was too often repeated. As a class, we would loudly say, “I’ll run and I’ll run with a leap and a twirl. You can’t catch me, I am the Gingerbread Girl!” Here is a link to a recorded read aloud version of the Gingerbread Girl. You’re welcome 🙂
Unfortunately, I do not remember many read alouds after this age, and I wish that I had more of them.
Believe it or not, read alouds are crucial in the classroom.
Stories can complement the learning targets of lesson plans, and they can help accomplish the standards required for students to understand in an engaging manner. When listening to a story and enjoying the visual imagery presented on the pages, children can dig deeply into the text by asking questions and making connections. Connections can occur between two or more stories, the story and the students’ experiences, and the story to what is being taught in class. It has been proven that good books can lead to good conversations, and they can be a form of scaffolding in the classroom.
Outside of the curriculum, read alouds can further a student’s understanding of how language works. They get to experience the different literary devices used in writing, and students can then use it in their writing workshop activities. Different literary devices that are common in children’s literature include alliteration, imagery, irony, metaphors, similes, hyperbole, personification, allegories, and onomatopoeia. Click here to access an article about different literary techniques found in books as well as some examples of children’s literature that utilize the listed techniques.
In addition to complementing the learning target of a lesson plan and furthering a student’s understanding of how language works, read alouds provide an opportunity for teachers to have a discussion with their students about current happenings within society and throughout the world. Let’s consider how this truth can apply to a controversial conversation that is taking place throughout our country right now: racism.
Several pieces of children’s literature would be acceptable to use within the classroom for a growth-filled discussion to take place. One of these pieces of literature is called Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester. In this book, the narrator of the story asks questions to its readers about how they identify themselves in comparison to others in various ways. The narrator begins by asking surface-leveled questions such as “what is your favorite color?”, and he gradually deepens his questions until he is questioning his readers of “why do people think their race is better than others?”. The narrator provides an opportunity for its readers to reflect on their own opinions as well as provide an opportunity for them to see the world from a different perspective. In conclusion, literature can provide an opportunity for children to make sense of the world around them through the discussion that occurs in an interactive read aloud. I provided a picture of the book cover below 🙂
One last note about why read alouds are crucial in the classroom. Read alouds can act as windows and mirrors for students. What does this mean? Well, a book that acts as windows provides an opportunity for students to view someone else’s experience. A book that acts as a mirror allows students to reflect on their own culture and how they identify as a person.
A common example of a book that acts as a window is “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. In this novel, August Pullman is ten years old and is raised in a loving family. However, he is homeschooled for the first few years of his academic career because of his family’s fear of how other children at school would be towards him because of his facial birth defect. August eventually attends school, and he begins his journey as an outcast. His identity is formed from his birth defect by his peers, and throughout the novel, August transforms his perception of his own identity from how his peers perceive him to who he and his family perceive him to be. Students can read this novel (or have the novel be a class read aloud) and develop an understanding of what a student with a physical abnormality may socially experience, and they can develop empathy from it.
A book that acts as a mirror is The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. In this book, children listen to the story of Unhei and her predicament of changing her name. Unhei enjoyed her name before moving to the United States because of the cultural meaning associated with it. However, upon arriving at her new school within the United States, she took name suggestions because she did not appreciate her name as she used to. At the end of the novel, she was encouraged by her classmate to keep her name, and she did. She chose to love her name because of her cultural identity associated with it. Teachers can use this piece of literature as a mirror by having students reflect on what their names mean and reflect on how they identify themselves from their name.
Students of all ages can benefit from read alouds, and I am appreciative of my learning in my Children’s Literature course because I now understand how crucial literature is in the educational experience of my students. And! Let’s not forget! Read alouds can be FUN!!!
What is one book that you have fond memories of from your childhood? Who read it to you? Comment below!
(I used my learning from my course at SNC as well as the text Reading, Writing, and Talk: Inclusive Reading Strategies for Diverse Learners, K-2 by Mariana Souto-Manning and Jessica Martell to write this post)