Content Literacy 101

Read-Alouds (From "Read It Aloud!")

"Learning becomes more relevant and exciting when fresh approaches such as read-alouds are infused into all content instruction."     --Judy S. Richardson

Read-alouds are pretty self-explanatory. This strategy is used extensively in elementary grades, but drops off sharply when students reach middle or high school. While teachers may think that students are too "grown-up" to be read to, this lack of read-alouds may be one of the reasons America is falling behind other countries in reading:
"Although the United States produced 'relatively high scores at the 9-year-old level,' [they] were lower than several countries at the 14-year-old level. One major finding of the study was that 'frequent story reading aloud by teachers' was a factor consistently differentiating high-scoring countries." (from the study: How in the World Do Students Read? Elley, 1992)

Why use it?
  • Model expressive, enthusiastic reading
  • Transmit the pleasure of reading
  • And invite listeners to be readers.
They are an effective means to promote reading." 

How do I use it?

Principles for Selecting and Using Read-Alouds:
1. "The selection should 'tie reading to pleasure, not pain.' (Chandler, 1997)...If you do not enjoy the selection, why would your students?"
2. "The selection should encourage discussion and application of content material."
3. "The selection should make the content 'come alive.' Any topic can be incredibly interesting or intensely dull."
4. "The selection should encourage further reading and inquiry. Read-alouds in the classroom should show that reading really can expand horizons." 

How to Locate Great Read-Alouds:
  • "Read voraciously. Read all types of books. Read for pleasure. Read simply for learning and pleasure and the read-alouds will be obvious."
  • "If you are not an avid reader, select material that interests you and begin reading small pieces a few days a week...Even on busy days, try for 15 minutes of pleasure reading before bedtime.
  • "Vary the types of materials you read." (i.e. newspapers, journalistic writing, tourist guidebooks, magazines, novels, etc.) 
  • "Share your selections with other teachers. They often have insights and instructional possibilities to share about particular selections."

NOTE: For an excellent resource on read-alouds, be sure to check out Judy S. Richardson's book, Read It Aloud! Using Literature in the Secondary Classroom. She divides the book by content areas, and has an appendix full of read-aloud recommendations. (See my "Further Reading" and "References Used" for more information.)