Dr. Suess's birthday is in a couple of days and when that happens our school, as with many other schools, celebrate reading! Let's face it, love his work or not, Dr. Suess has done wonders for the world of reading to children. His lyrical, rhythmic rhymes, flow so twistedly, creating a story that is open to interpretive visualization. The sound alone of his lines is catchy, as music is. I remember reading some of his works to my crying children when they were really little, trying to calm them down and lull them to sleep. "Big A, Little A, What begins with A?" It worked every time.
At school we celebrate his birthday by inviting people from our community to read to our classes. Each adult comes in with a favorite picture book and reads it to the students. The students love listening to, not only the story, but the reason why the person chose the book. Read alouds can be powerful. Every time you read a story to someone else you are sharing an experience with them, going on a journey with them. As teachers, parents and adults we are modeling good reading behaviors as we pause to look at the illustrations, or stop to think about the story or ask a question. Engaging the ones we are reading with in this way makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
Big Universe even has a read aloud collection of books that can be read aloud to individual students, a small group or the whole class. It's kind of fun to hear the different narrators on each of the stories and compare their styles of reading. Some are slow, some are rhythmic, some are sing songy. The same is true when a new adult comes into our room to read to us. We hear their enjoyment in the story, notice the changes in tone and pitch in their voice.
Here are some other benefits to reading books and stories aloud to children of all ages.
- It helps with comprehension as you discuss the story before, during and after reading.
- It builds vocabulary as you read new words in context.
- It helps children to visualize, especially if you are reading a story without words and pausing from time to time to check understanding. (Even books with pictures helps this. Challenge the students to study an illustration and then put it into motion in their minds.)
- It builds a love of reading and learning. When others see the model reader enjoying a story, the listener is automatically pulled in.
And notice I mentioned children of all ages. Don't underestimate the power of reading to older students and even adults. I remember reading carefully chosen books to my eighth grade classes when I taught music. Even they liked the experience of read alouds! There are also times when I pull out a relevant story to read to adults who take a workshop with me. Their faces light up at a familiar, comical or touching story.
So think about how you can add some emphasis to reading aloud to your students this week and in the weeks to come. What are some stories you consider great read alouds?