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24 December 2014 @ 07:14 pm
On Reading Aloud  
One of my favorite courses was a seminar with Dick Abrahamson which centered on reading the best articles about children's and YA literature and reading. There were about 10 members of the class which included my friends Lois Buckman and Kylene Beers. Our task was to "adopt" some of the leading journals, to go back into their archives (which, I feel compelled to point out, had to be done by thumbing back issues at the library) and select articles we felt were central to the profession. We made copies of the articles, brought them to class, and made our case each week. At the end of the semester, each of us had amassed a wonderful list of best articles ever. I still have my list. I use it often as those voices from the past are still clarion today. If you are an NCTE member, you can access Dick's article about the best YA pieces here: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/EJ/0863-march97/EJ0863Collected.PDF.

But the one I come back to again and again is not about YA literature; it is about reading aloud. "On Reading Aloud" was one of the first articles in the earliest issues of The Horn Book. I think it is one I return to again and again because it reinforces my belief in the power of the read aloud. I need reinforcement these days when I read blog posts about selecting the proper read aloud. One I read suggested 8 questions to be asked when selecting a read aloud. The questions included ones on the goal of the selection and what kids might learn as a result of the read aloud (and a couple of mentions of CCSS to be addressed). Another blog post discussed how a teacher discussed rhetorical devices while reading aloud by pausing during the reading to comment and question. I have even seen the term interactive read aloud used (incorrectly) as a label for this reading, pausing, questioning, resume reading cycle.

I am not, of course, dismissing deliberation as a factor in selecting books. As I read, I do note books I think would be well used as mentor texts, books that could help address an issue, books that fit into a reading ladder, etc. But I do not ask question after question about which books I will read aloud. I do not see read aloud as INSTRUCTION. I see it as ENJOYMENT, as MODELING a love of reading, as TIME to listen to language.

And I worry that reading aloud is becoming yet another lesson plan. As this year winds down, and the article in Horn Book nears its half century anniversary, I want to harken back and ask they we return to reading aloud in its purest form, that we carve out time to read books aloud to our classes. I know many of you do. I read the posts of Katherine Sokolowski and Paul Hankins and others and know read aloud is alive and well. My hope for the coming year is that it grows and spreads and becomes one of our best practices in every single classroom. Would that not make for a very Merry Christmas?
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