Reading Aloud by Debbie Shoulders

A recent staff development included an activity that involved reading a passage on the document reader and choosing one of three responses to share with the rest of the group. One of my tablemates was surprised at how fast I could locate the correct response. It’s not often at my age that you are “complemented” on your reading abilities.


I do read quickly which allows me more time to traverse across the worlds of Hogswart and Panem or to dream with Francie in her tree, laugh with the Weird Watsons, or share Steve Harmon’s anxiety as he faces a murder charge.


How did I get here? Almost all of the credit I give to my mother. Her gift to her children was books. She read to us until we were able to read to ourselves. I remember during a bout with the chicken pox, her dashing from room to room not to take temperatures or serve chicken soup but to administer a much more satisfying salve, a story.


As I grew older, when time allowed, I looked forward and still anticipate long hours to read. I always have a book on me so that when extra time presents itself, say a long wait in the grocery line, time passes more pleasantly.


For these reasons, I am passionate about the importance of reading aloud to students. Currently I teach 8th grade ELA and 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Computer Literacy. ALL of these classes have an accompanied anchor book, a narrative that helps in planning. I spend the first ten-twenty minutes of class reading that book aloud. Despite a yearly practice of deleting time out of the class schedule, I refuse to eliminate this practice. I have had to give up silent sustained reading and a daily writing workshop but the daily read aloud – never.


I received an email from a parent. Here is an excerpt: “I just wanted to take this time out and let you know that you have given my daughter a different look at life. Over this weekend all she spoke about was this book that you read to her (to the class). She wanted the book but she also wanted to see the movie. She could not stop talking about what happened in the book and she wanted to compare it to the movie. She kept telling me what a great reader her teacher is, how she read with such passion and it made the book come to life. That is why she just had to see how it played it. She saw it in her head but she wanted to see if she had pictured it the way it was meant to be. The book gave her so many emotions that she has but never really felt from reading a book. She stated she cried, she laughed, and she got scared.”


In teaching it is a challenge to see how you make a difference. A praise of read alouds may never make it to your inbox. But you continue the practice of reading aloud because it is right. It is something you do because the children need it. It is something you do because your heart demands it.


Debbie Shoulders is an 8th grade English Language Arts and Computer Literacy teacher. She has co-authored “D is for Drum, A Native American Alphabet,” “G is for Gladiator, An Ancient Rome Alphabet,”  and “T is for Titanic, A Titanic Alphabet” with her husband Michael Shoulders. You can find her online at and on Twitter as @Shoulded