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Remember back when you were in grade school and there was a time after lunch when your teacher would pull out a chapter book and read aloud to your class? As a child, it was my favourite part of the school day. After recess and lunch of course, those are pretty hard to beat!

 

As a teacher, it remained one of my favourite times of the day. I remember one fifth grade student who struggled desperately with all subjects and showed no interest in being in my class. After several weeks into the school year, I noticed that his complaints were the most fervent when I closed the book each day. One afternoon he was really about to “lose it” when I ended the reading time on a major cliff hanger. There was actual desperation in his voice as he begged for me to keep reading. Those are the moments I live for in a classroom – the moment you realize a student is “hooked” on something.

 

In that moment, I realized that the read aloud time was the one instance where he felt connected to the “community” of our classroom. I smiled, made eye contact with him, and said I’d read one more chapter, ‘just for him’.

 

Not only had I found the key to engaging this hard-to-reach student, but it became a time for him to open his mind to new possibilities, to make connections between himself and the text, and to hear text read in an engaging way. I quickly realized that I could share this format of “read aloud” time with him in other ways as well. Little by little he became engaged in many subject areas simply by leveraging a practice many people give little thought to – reading aloud.

 

There are many benefits to reading aloud – both in a classroom setting, but also one-on-one:

 

Listening Skills

 

Every teacher and parent knows inherently (and anecdotally) that their students/kids need to practice their listening skills. I have a feeling my girls would suggest that I too, need to practice a bit!

 

Reading aloud gives us a chance to work on this undervalued skill. Have you ever been in conversation with someone and and instead of listening to them you realize you’re just waiting for them to stop so you can blurt out what you want to say (I’m guilty too!)? Pairing up with a friend, parent, or Hoot teacher to read aloud facilitates the practice of listening. In Hoot, we spend the bulk of our time listening to your child read, but there are many times when we stop to model as well.

 

Exchange of Ideas

 

The ability to pause, listen to the spoken word, reflect, and expand upon it, helps us grow engaged humans. Around Valentine’s Day, my niece showed me a trending video of a squirrel leaping from a bathroom waste basket. What does that have to do with reading aloud? You’re wise to ask. I wonder how my experience of this “squirrel story” might have been different if she had told me instead of handing me a phone to watch. Which experience would have been more meaningful or hooked me into an exchange of ideas? Videos are great, but storytelling and hearing a story read aloud is far more interactive, and therefore more mentally stimulating, than a video!

 

Comprehension & Critical Thinking

 

Reading aloud during a Hoot lesson provides students with an opportunity to dig deeper through questions posed by their teacher. We uncover whether or not our students are understanding the information, engaged mentally, and can asses if they are incorporating new information into their prior knowledge.

 

So, before you turn your kids loose to read alone tonight, mix it up a bit. Drag that chapter book off the shelf and offer to read aloud. Ask questions that will provoke their critical thinking (the ‘why’ questions are good for this!) and if they’re ready, let them read a few paragraphs to you. Lose yourself in the read aloud tonight.

 

If you’re not sure what book to grab, here are some that my family is currently reading through together at nighttime or have read over the last year:

 

The House of Dunraven by Steven Thomas Lympus
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

 

Happy reading!

 

Sources

Want to dig deeper for yourself? Check out my sources for this post:

 

 
 
 

About Elizabeth Hawkins Lincoln

AvatarElizabeth is a former elementary school teacher who loves to make learning and fun collide. She earned her Bachelor of Education from the University of Montana (Go Griz!) and her Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She taught Gr. 3 and 5, and when she left the classroom, she worked in educational software and online teacher professional development. Elizabeth spends her free time exploring art museums, riding bikes with her family, camping, writing stories, and traveling to new places.

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