Reading aloud to the students is one way to encourage reading, model fluent reading, and share reader responses. Children who are read to at home read more on their own; students whose teachers read to them read more; even college students who are read to read more (Morrow & Weinstein, 1986; Neuman, 1986; and Pitts, 1986). In Stahl's (1999) research synthesis on vocabulary development, he makes three suggestions about what to do to improve vocabulary knowledge: (1) increase the amount of reading that children do, (2) teach word meanings, and (3) “read to children—even older children who are not traditionally read to” (p. 13).
While there is general agreement on the importance of reading aloud to children in and out of school, a recent survey of reading-aloud practices in 537 elementary classrooms indicated that one-third of the teachers surveyed rarely read aloud to students, and for those teachers who were reading aloud regularly, few read nonfiction (Hoffman, Roser, & Battle, 1993). My colleagues and I estimate that for most students, their opportunity to hear something read well on a daily basis decreases each year they are in school.
Students should hear something read well every day. By reading aloud to students, teachers invite them to enter the world of reading. Reading aloud offers students experience with the rhythms of the English language, a model of enjoyment and learning from print, and an opportunity to be engaged with text. Reading aloud is especially beneficial for low achievers (Bridge 1989; Winograd & Bridge, 1995) and works to increase students' comprehension and vocabulary test scores (Cochran-Smith, 1988). Through their choices of material to read aloud, teachers essentially recommend books or selections to students, frequently inspiring students to read more (Greaney & Hegarty, 1987; Wendelin & Zinck, 1983).
Here are my tips for reading aloud:
- Select primarily nonfiction material.
- Choose passages that capture powerful or useful concepts.
- Practice reading the selection aloud before you share with students.
- Plan a few comments to encourage class discussion, such as what drew you to that passage, how you figured out the message, or how you will use the information.
- Use the passage to emphasize varied concepts in the curriculum.
- Budget your time—segments of reading aloud can productively range from 5 to 20 minutes when discussion is included.
For additional ideas on reading aloud see Moss, 1995.