Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A couple of read aloud images from yesterday:

11:00 Third Grade Intervention Group
It's the day before third grade CSAP (our state tests) and the anxiety level is a little high. I have decided that one more day of test prep is not going to make that big a difference for my struggling readers; instead, we are having a party to celebrate all that we've learned so far this year. Aside from poetry, I don't read aloud to this group a lot, mostly because I have them for such a short time every day. Today, though, I bring SEVEN MILES TO FREEDOM, a wonderful new picture book biography about Robert Smalls, a slave who smuggled his family, and the families of several other slaves out of South Carolina (and stole a Confederate ship and four cannons in the process). 

As I read aloud to my little group, which roughly reflects Stedman's population (50% African American, 40% ELL, mostly from Mexico, and 10% Anglo), I know that the decision to NOT read aloud every day was a really bad one. "I can't remember. What's slavery?" says S, one of the three African American kids in the group. M doesn't know what a harbor or a dock is. About two-thirds of the way into the picture book replete with images of water and boats, C says, "Are they going in a boat or on a train?" 

1:00 Fourth/Fifth Grade Intervention Group
I have this group for ninety minutes each afternoon and have read to them since Day One. We are currently three chapters from the end of Christopher Paul Curtis' historical fiction novel, ELIJAH OF BUXTON. I usually begin our group with read aloud, but today several of the kids are late, so we start with independent reading time. The second I pull the kids together, Jackie says, "Are you going to read today?" I grab ELIJAH and read one chapter, a pretty long one, that takes about twenty minutes. By the end, my voice, on its fourth read aloud of the day, and still kind of hoarse from last week's bout with the Colorado Crud, is just about shot. "Can't you read some more?" says Rodolfo. "We're almost done," pleads DiAnthony. I grab a paper cub from the top of the piano (we meet in the auditorium) and dispatch Darlene to the water fountain, then read for 25 more minutes, until my fifth grade writing group is standing at the door. As they leave, I remember that we never did guided reading or skills block today. I think it's fine. Today I built kids' reading hearts.

I have been reading to kids since the day I began my teach career in 1981 (the first professional development session I ever did was based on Jim Trelease's READ ALOUD HANDBOOK). Those first few years, I joked, only half kiddingly, that read aloud was the only time I could get kids to truly settle down and listen. Today, I am reminded anew:  Read aloud is not only good for the soul, it's VITAL for building kids' passion for books, as well as their background knowledge, vocabulary, and listening comprehension.

I was not entirely accurate yesterday with the statistics about how many parents read aloud to their children, it's actually about the same in the United States and Australia. One-half of the parents of preschoolers read aloud to their children. Two-thirds of the parents cite TIME as the reason they don't read aloud. Check out Susan's latest read aloud entry about one of her readers, who blogs at THE ECCLETIC READER has a magnet on the side of her car encouraging parents to read to their children. (I'm considering getting one of these for my car. I think that in addition to promoting this hugely important habit, it would cut down on my chauffeuring responsibilities because my sons, who already think I qualify as a leading candidate for Nerd Book Mother of the Year, would refuse to ride with me, despite the fact that I read aloud to them pretty much every day). 


Laura Lynn Benson said...

You continually bring the hope and light of the written word to children...and we are all richer for your giving efforts.
Sending you my admiration and love...

Laura Lynn Benson said...

P.S. I took some liberties in a BLOG entry today...Hope that feels loving and honorable...My words certainly reflect my heart..One of these days life will bring us together regularly!

Lauren said...

I agree 100% on the importance of read alouds. Here's another blog entry (and the resulting conversation through comments) I read just now:

She suggests an International Campaign - WOW, Can you imagine?