A librarian colleague of mine told me she doesn’t just read to the students. She uses the books to teach inferring, making connections, determining importance and all those very important skills that children need and I felt guilty because, yes I do teach these, but I also feel the need to just read a good story. I don't make my primary students fill out sheets, mostly because of the negativity I found came from that practice. I know it is a necessity in the classroom, but often I find a book that relates to the day, the emotion in the room, a moment, an idea, a book with great words, a hilarious character and we just read. We talk about parts we like, characters that stand out, favourite pictures, they share their stories and that’s it. We explore authors & illustrators packed with charm and action so the students come to love them and seek them out on their own and I felt a bit guilty. Not guilty enough to change it, but guilty in that you should be doing more way.
World Read-Aloud Day was March 5th and in the spirit of that I started reading Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook, although next year we should celebrate this day with lots of read alouds, I can’t believe how empowering this extraordinarily well-researched book is for my guilty soul and I appreciate, but didn't read, the 22 pages dedicated to the references and studies to back up my new found guiltlessness.
Here are some interesting and motivating facts I took from the book that reinforce my just read-aloud tendencies:
The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children p. 4, Trelease quoting Becoming a Nation of Readers
The prime predictor of success and failure(at school) is the child’s vocabulary upon entering school. Yes, the child goes to school to learn new words, but words he already knows determine how much of what the teacher says will be understood. And since most instruction for the first four years of school is oral, the child who has the largest vocabulary will understand the most, while the child with the smallest vocabulary will grasp the least. P.15
The eventual strength of our vocabulary is determined not by the ten thousand common words, but by how many rare words we understand….printed text contains the most rare words.p.17
So reading aloud builds our student’s vocabulary, better preparing them for school, exposing them to the social joys of reading and, hopefully, reinforcing that reading is a pleasurable thing. This will then provide them with the vocabulary and understanding to pick up reading on their own, barring other difficulties, so they can build their reading skills and stamina providing them with the skills to finish the post-secondary course of their choice. Whew! That’s a lot to come from simply reading aloud.
Jim Trelease reinforces that we must keep reading aloud to our students at all ages and above their reading level, so they see the pleasure from books they can’t read yet. We need to keep reinforcing those pleasure centres so that we can compete against the television, iPads, texts, tweets, and the sports teams that demand a lot of their time.
Here are some great books and authors that would provide great read-alouds for different levels and, hopefully, reinforce the joys of reading with your students.
Whimsy's Heavy Things
by Julie Kraulis
In this beautifully illustrated book, with every page being a contrast of light and dark, Whimsy recognizes that you can't ignore or hide the issues that weigh you down. She also discovers that breaking down your problems can help. This is an interesting analogy that could spark discussions and raise awareness of the heavy things in all of us.
Bad Kitty Books
by Nick Bruel
Bad Kitty is one of our family favourites! Hilarious, quirky characters & the best alphabet lists ever...it is a mix of novel, graphic novel & picture book so it's great for those students who are on the edge of reading independently, but aren't quite ready for the full novel format. Also there are many in the series!
The Story of Fish & Snail
by Deborah Freedman
Be Accepting of Others!
These could be the mottos of the friendship of Fish and Snail who love each other, but experience the normal conflicts of friendship.
With few words, gorgeous images and unique perspectives you can explore what these mean to you, your students and Fish and Snail.
by R.J. Palacio
August is different. He was born with a severe facial deformity that makes everyone stare at him and, now, at ten his mother decides to enroll him in a public school.
This book is narrated by Auggie. He has such a wonderful voice that you can only cheer for him. Interspersed between his chapters are the honest points of view of other characters close to him, giving a full perspective of his story.
This book inspired a Choose Kind Campaign and is an engaging read-aloud and character builder for your class.
Forgive me, I Meant To Do It.
False Apology Poems
by Gail Carson Levine
Forget what I have to say! Listen to Jenny at @60secondrecap explain the book.
Sometimes you don't have time for a novel and these witty "false apology poems" based on William Carlos Williams poem This Is Just To Say might just inspire your students to write false apology poems of their own...or at least...have fun identifying who is apologizing to whom for what.
Great point of view game right here!
by Richard Scrimger
A good partner to go with Wonder. These might even be great grade 6 literature circle books with a theme of Acceptance.
Imre has a physical disability of sorts. He is an indestructable, but not-so-smart zombie and he now goes to Bob's school. The SCC is not happy and Bob's best friend Evil-O has decided to befriend Imre, even if Bob's not so sure about him. This leaves Bob with no friends to speak of.
An exploration of friendship and acceptance with a number of zany twists and a dark secret that hides within the book.
Guys Read Series
by Jon Scieszka
Pick a genre:
Sports, Humour, Sci Fi, Horror
Pick an author:
Patrick Carmen, James Patterson, Anthony Horowitz, Tom Angleberger, Ray Bradbury, Rick Riordan, Rebecca Stead, Neil Gaiman, James Howe
Pick a story.
Read it & see where you go!
Read All About It
by Jim Trelease
I haven't read this one yet, but I do have it on order so here is an excerpt of the review from Goodreads:
A treasury of fifty sensational
read-aloud pieces for young adults. From Narrative of the Life
of Frederick Douglass to Maniac Magee, sci-fi to op-ed. “Casey at the Bat” to a moving true story about the reunion of two Holocaust survivors, this wonderfully diverse collection of excerpts from
newspapers, magazines, and books has been created by Jim Trelease especially to turn young people on to the many pleasures of reading.
If you want to read the rest of the excerpt click here!
Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades
by Paul B. Janeczko
I like poetry. Not everybody likes poetry and this is what I like about it:
It is short.
It doesn't have to rhyme.
It gets to the point.
It uses various literary elements.
It doesn't have to follow rules.
It is short.
If you aren't sure about poetry. This is a great collection to start with. Paul Janeczko gives lots of ways to tie them into your language program, and there is a poem for everyone. Here's one which usually grabs your action, sports boys ....Foul Shot.