No one describes the power of read aloud better than author extraordinaire, Mem Fox.
Reading aloud is not a cure-all. Not quite. But it is such a wonderful antidote for turning on turned-off readers and brightening up dull writing that I feel it's worthwhile to plead again for its regular occurrence in every classroom, not only those classrooms at the younger end of the school. Even in my forties I have benefited as a writer directly from hearing writing read aloud. The music, the word choice, the feelings, the flow of the structure, the new ideas, the fresh thoughts -- all these and more are banked in my writing checking account whenever I am fortunate enough to be read to. Mem Fox, Radical Reflections
Mem's bold book, Radical Reflections, is organized around 16 lessons that teachers can learn from parents, because long before kids come to school, they've successfully learned many complex behaviors, the least of which is their home language. In many homes, that language learning is undeniably influenced by being read to.
The findings of a recently reported study in the UK show that daily reading aloud at home boosted children's success at school, including knowledge and understanding of the world, literacy and math. These children also outscored classmates in assessments of their social, emotional, physical and creative development. An emphasis on teaching kids the alphabet and to count, in contrast, was not shown to significantly impact school success. (My apologies that this study is not currently available online.)
So to all you parents out there, thanks for the inspiration, including Lesson #16: "Read aloud, once again, with feeling!" And today while you're reading, take satisfaction that empirical evidence supports the importance of what you've known all along.
Here are a just a few of many favorite read aloud titles (and please respond with a few of your own!).
For young ones, look for titles by Mem Fox. "More, More, More," Said the Baby! (Vera Williams) is another favorite, and comes as a board book. Peek-a Who (Nina Laden) is also a winner!
For 4-7 year olds, nothing beats Martin Waddell's Pig in the Pond or The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything (Williams & Lloyd). And Mo Willem's books are fabulous, including The Pigeon and anything from the Elephant & Piggie series.
For slightly older kids, Roald Dahl always hits a home run, and my absolute favorite title of his to read aloud is The Enormous Crocodile. It makes a great readers theater book if you can find multiple copies and highlight the different voices.
Afternoon of the Elves (Lisle) offers girls a lot to talk about, and it was one of few "girl books" that my 3rd grade boys also enjoyed.
For older kids, ask what they're reading. You might read it together or have your child read to you. The range of great books is limitless!
Finally, if you're the parent of an older, disengaged guy reader, check out some guy recommendations on Jon Scieszka's site, Guys Read. It's never too late to reengage!