If I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, I think I’d probably pick reading aloud to children. My voice may tire, but reading aloud great books to students is one of my favorite things to do. These read-aloud strategies and tips will help you have rock star reading performances too.
Reading aloud is probably the biggest literacy gift we can give to children. So, grab some great books, use these ideas, and get ready to make a difference in a child’s life.
Why Should We Give Time to Read-Alouds
Why should we read-aloud to children of all ages? Let me count the ways.
- Models fluent reading.
- Expands oral vocabulary.
- Develops a love of reading.
- Builds listening skills.
- Generates conversation and deeper thinking.
- Introduces and reinforces concepts and skills.
- Builds community.
Reading aloud is one of the best tools I keep in my teaching toolkit. In fact, it’s that trusted tool that you never want to let go of. It just works.
Know Your Audience
They say timing is everything and that is true for read-alouds too. Think about how long the book will take to read and then consider how much time you have to read and the students’ attention span.
The amount of time the students can sit and follow along with a story at the beginning of the year is quite different compared to the end of the school year. Keep this in mind when making your reading selections.
Likes and Dislikes
If you have a group of kids who are enthusiastic about the construction outside in the parking lot then take advantage of that enthusiasm and choose read-alouds to match. Wouldn’t you much rather listen to a story that was about something you were interested in learning or knowing?
Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, says, “A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade.”
One of the great benefits of reading aloud to students is that we can build their oral vocabularies and comprehension long before they can do the work in their own reading. Don’t be afraid to read about their reading level. In fact, please do so.
What is Your Why?
Every read-aloud should have a purpose and it is completely fine if that purpose is to read for pleasure.
We can also use read-alouds to meet our curriculum needs. Know what your purpose is and then fit great read-alouds to fulfill your mission.
Choose Books Wisely
Not all books are created equally. Look for high-quality books. Picking the right book for your read-aloud will make or break the experience.
At Growing Book by Book, we have over 150 book lists to help you find the books you need.—>Lists of Books for Kids
And, it is ok to abandon books. If something isn’t working, let it go.
Sitting for Success
Children can listen to a story while doing something with their hands. In fact, for some children, keeping hands busy is key for helping them process a story.
A few of my favorite busy hand ideas include:
- molding play dough
- building with Lego
- drawing or coloring
- holding a stuffed animal or other objects
Don’t expect little statues while you are reading.
Get Ready for the Performance
Reading aloud offers us the opportunity to model comprehension strategies while we read. Stop and think aloud about what you are reading. What should you model? Check out our post on modeling comprehension strategies.
Read with expression. Want some examples on how to do this? Just watch some of the Storyline Online videos of professional actors reading aloud children’s books. It’s a crash course in with reading expression.
What to Do During the Read-Aloud
The first time I read-aloud a text, I like to read it for pure enjoyment. Do a quick preview, ask a background building question and then dive into the book. Periodically, ask questions but not too many. Keep them short and sweet and get right back to the story.
On repeated readings, you can do deeper comprehension work or skill-building.
Extend and Deepen
I love to use books as a springboard to further learning, conversation, and exploration. I can easily spend a week with one picture book using it over and over again.
That’s why I created Book Dives to help you go deep inside a book with children. Each Book Dive highlights vocabulary, conversation starters, literacy activities, sensory or art explorations, and so much more. Check out our collection of Book Dives.
Reward with Reading
Finally, let reading be a reward. In fact, it’s my favorite way to celebrate with children. “We got ready so quickly today that we have time for an extra read-aloud.”
Our ultimate goal is to read for pleasure so associate reward with reading.
Special Read-Aloud Considerations When Doing Online Story Time
Many of us are currently finding ourselves having to do online storytimes. Here are a few considerations and tips for doing online read-alouds.
- Check copyright information from the publisher before reading or recording a book online. Many have loosened their policies during school closures, but it is still important to check before doing an online reading. Check this Covid-19 Publisher Directory.
- When recording, do not sit in front of a window. The glare is terrible for the viewer. You want a well-lit area though preferably with diffused light.
- Avoid books with glossy pages or intricately detailed illustrations.
- Engage in eye contact. I know it’s difficult when you are talking to a camera. Tape a picture of children right above your camera to remind you who you are talking to and to get you looking straight into the camera.
The American Library Association provides some further guidance in their Virtual Storytime Services Guide.
May your read-aloud time turn into the best part of your day!