professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Reading Allowed

Earlier I had posted an entry about some bits and pieces of things that were floating around waiting for me to sit down and write about them. One of those items was reading aloud. That post drew some comments to my Twitter feed. One person asked why we could not have read aloud and interactive read aloud co-exist. I answered but 140 characters does not seem to be sufficient for me to draw the distinction I wanted. So, as I noted in the earlier post, I am coming back to this topic.

I talked about the commodification of education. I think reading aloud has fallen prey to commodification. Before I proceed further, let me point you to this excellent piece by Patrick Shannon from 2001 entitled "A Marxist Reading of Reading Education," the text of which can be found here: This concept of commodification is not new, nor is the corporate intrusion into education. But, politics aside, I want to talk about reading aloud.

Reading aloud is one of the key components of a literacy rich environment. Educators share books aloud. There are decades of research that prove reading aloud is effective and important. See Jim Trelease ( for a brief review of some of the research. What happens during read aloud? Someone (teacher, parent, adult, librarian, etc.) reads aloud a book or a portion of the book. Period. Until commodification entered. Now, we have something called interactive read aloud. Someone (a teacher in this case) reads aloud and pauses along the way to ask questions about what is being read. This is NOT reading aloud. Nor is it truly interactive. Interactive implies a conversation, a two way discussion. Basically interactive read aloud is a variation of the old skill/drill/kill strategy. But this aside, what else could possibly bother me about interactive read alouds? Am I just being a fussy curmudgeonly purist?

1. INTRUSION: when we pause during the reading aloud of the story to pose questions, we are intruding into the students' natural response to the reading by guiding them with questions.

2. INTERRUPTION: we disrupt the flow of the story when we pause to ask questions. One of the things that reading aloud helps develop is stamina. I would argue that interruptions are not particularly helpful when it comes to stamina.

3. ANNOYANCE: I wonder how many kids are turned off to read aloud time if there are questions, writing assignments, and anything else required. One of the reasons my kids loved read aloud time (I began class each day with at least a 5-10 minute reading) was that it was sacrosanct, a shared time for teacher and student to ENJOY the experience.

I think the concept of interactive read aloud is fine: read and ask questions. But it is NOT reading aloud. It is something different. Actually, it could be many things: think alouds, checking for comprehension, noticing context clues, etc. That is why I wrote about it. That is why I will argue that the two things are quite different. I think the usurpation of terms (something Shannon discusses in his article) is what bothers me. I noted this in the previous post. Reading aloud in its purest sense is a time for pleasure, a time to pause and enjoy the language, a time to experience unconscious delight. Let our kids "fall into books." Let them enjoy a laugh or share a tear or two with them. Watch this video of Steven Layne reading his poem, "Read to Them." I love this poem (and Steven, too) and think it says beautifully what I feel about avoiding commodification. Here is the link:
Tags: commodification
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