A Year in Read-Alouds by Carrie Rodusky
Another school year is ending and that is always time for us teachers to reflect on what went well, what we can change, and so on. The one thing I always look back on is my year in read- alouds. It could possibly be my favorite part of the day. Not because I like to hear my own voice, but rather because it is the one time of the day I know I have the attention of all 18 kids. We turn the lights down, we get into a comfortable space, and we explore a fantastic book together with no pressure of assessing or levels. We just read and let our emotions be real.
There is debate on when a child is “too old” to be read to aloud – my opinion is, never! My children’s lit professor in college still read aloud to us almost every class period. Beyond the academic and developmental benefits, think of how nice it is to let someone else tell a story and your only job is to sit and listen. Actually, there are so many positives to reading aloud to older children. They can be exposed to vocabulary and plot that may be just a tad bit challenging, yet, because they do not have to break down the phonetics of the words or worry about fluency, they can become hooked on the story which will help them with lengthier chapter books. You can also have deeper conversations and help children navigate through difficult topics and real life issues. The best benefit I have personally seen is that these read-alouds are making my kids readers; even the kids who started the year claiming to be non-readers.
So, what did my fourth graders hear this year? We posted them on our board and gave each book a review sheet. This helps me decide if I should keep it in the rotation for future classes.
Some of the books I read ahead of time, and some I did not. Those were actually my favorite because we got to experience the emotions and excitement together at the same moment.
Here is the list of read-alouds my class read this year in order, along with one student review:
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – “This book was good, but it was really sad.”
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick – “Probably the best book I have ever read. It was always changing.”
Walk Two Moons by: Sharon Creech – “This book has so many surprises!”
Bud, Not Buddy by: Christopher Paul Curtis – ““Once you start you can’t stop.”
The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton – “This book gives very strong descriptions. I love it!
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – “It was great. It was like one of these books you don’t know how it’s going to play out. “
We are getting ready to start our last class read-aloud of the year. It is student choice. I gave them each a sheet with questions about genre and authors. They could tell me a favorite one of they had no book in particular, or they could research on some teacher approved reading sites. There was criteria in that it could not be a book they or a lot of people have already read and it must be school/grade appropriate. I am still going through the results and recommendations. What is encouraging is that they really listened during book talks and took those ideas to heart. I am sad that this will be my last read with this class, but thrilled that they are already making summer lists on their own.
The students always ask me if I will read the same books again next year. While there are some I will (because I like to compliment other areas of our study with a good read-aloud) others are special and unique to each class. This year, my fourth graders and I agreed that Wonderstruck is off limits; this was by far our favorite as we ended up creating a project based on this read-aloud that we want to keep as our own special memory. I love that I will have this connection with this group over this book. If you have any doubts as to whether read-alouds are worth it at any age, my students will give a resounding “YES!” I am already making my list for next year.
Carrie Rodusky has been teaching since 1996. She is currently the fourth and fifth grade language arts teacher and 4th grade social studies in a Catholic school outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She loves all things reading and can be found out under the trees on a summer day with book in hand. She hopes all kids will identify themselves as readers and still tries with her own teenagers. She will read Wild and The Secret Life of Bees every year without fail.