The research on the value of reading aloud is absolutely clear: reading aloud not only improves attitudes toward reading, it can promote growth in reading as well. Why have we seem to have forgotten this simple yet essential fact. The reason has to do with the research conducted by the folks who were pushing NCLB. Their research (you can see it here: http://www.readinghorizons.com/research/five-pillars-of-reading-instruction-strategies) announced there were 5 pillars of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness instruction, phonics instruction, fluency instruction, vocabulary instruction, and comprehension instruction. And so anything that did not appear on this list of 5 was largely jettisoned from reading programs, especially programs for middle school and secondary students.
The online discussion of late centered on a couple of pieces: an article about the new Scholastic report on reading which indicates reading aloud is a good thing appeared in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/us/study-finds-reading-to-children-of-all-ages-grooms-them-to-read-more-on-their-own.html?_r=0 (it will be released later this month here: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/category/tags/kids-and-family-reading-report-2014) and several messages to me asking for research to cite for said articles.
Folks, there IS research, quite a bit of it. Much of it is older because of the 5 pillars research which simply ignored the vast research on the effectiveness of reading aloud. It is NOT that reading aloud suddenly became ineffective. It is because the researchers narrowed the scope of their studies. In the 1980s a doc student at the University of Houston conducted a meta-analysis of the studies to date on reading aloud and its effects. Her conclusion? Reading aloud improved comprehension (one of the pillars), vocabulary (one of the pillars), fluency (a third pillar). Whether the group being studied was elementary, secondary, or even adult learners, read aloud was effective. In other words, we have almost a century of research proving the effectiveness of this simple activity.
So why do we ignore it? In large part, it is ignored because it is dated and it is not part of the research conducted previously to support NCLB. If it is utilized, it is more likely to happen in classrooms with early readers. Once kids are deemed old enough to be independent, the practice is often abandoned.
I know folks who read this blog are the ones who still believe reading aloud is a good thing; they read aloud to their classes, K-adult. They talk about how kids respond. They know it is a powerful tool. But how do we get the word out to all those naysayers? We need to keep quoting the research. See the treasure trove at Jim Trelease's web site: http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/rah-intro.html. Krashen has much to say about the research for NCLB and CCSS: http://www.sdkrashen.com. Look at Allington, Pearson (P. David, not the company), Founts and Pinnell, Kittle, Miller, and SO many more.
Maybe the problem with reading aloud failing to make the grade when it comes to classroom practices is that it cannot be commodified. There is no "program" that can be sold for this practice. No kit. It requires a book, a willing teacher, and some kids. What HAS happened, though, to reading aloud is something quite sinister. I see references to reading aloud, often called interactive, wherein the teacher reads, pauses, asks questions (comprehension), reads, pauses, questions. This is NOT reading aloud. It is drill and kill with little skill.You want to see read aloud as it is meant to be? Check out any number of You Tube videos. Watch the author B J Novak read The Book with No Pictures to a group of kids who giggle and guffaw (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cREyQJO9EPs). Watch John Green read The Fault in our Stars (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_vFvbfn9Fs).
I still recall Jim Trelease reading to his audiences. We all sat there enraptured. So do kids today. They close their eyes, they become still, they listen. And in that simple act of reading aloud and listening, magic happens. We need to keep that magic, the magic of story, alive for our kids.