A common misconception among parents, and even some teachers, is that once children start reading independently, they no longer have the need or the desire to be read-aloud to. Well, having observed and worked in a few different 4th and 5th grade classroom settings (within low and high socioeconomic status neighborhoods), I can tell you that tweens LOVE to hear read-alouds!
Whether tweens are avid readers, or very reluctant readers, they love to hear really great stories. When you think about it, who doesn't?
Our society is connected through the stories we share, whether they're real or imaginary. The problem these days, though, is that with so much visually enhanced technology, we seem to be reading and watching these stories unfold, as opposed to actively listening to them.
When you just listen to a story, it's a much different experience. With no moving visual image, you have to think more critically and creatively. That's why listening to the radio and/or audio books can be such a powerful tool, when used to supplement independent reading and live read-alouds.
Jim Trelease makes a great case for continuing to read-aloud to children, at least through the 8th grade:
"According to the experts, it is a reasonable assertion that reading and listening skills begin to converge at about eighth grade. Until then, kids usually listen on a higher level than that on which they read. Therefore, children can hear and understand stories that are more complicated and interesting than anything they could read on their own." (The Read-Aloud Handbook , page 37)
High quality reading materials use language and vocabulary that children do not usually hear during conversations. Even the writing in picture books can be much more advanced than your typical conversation or chapter book (even for middle schoolers). That's why children need to be exposed to a variety of reading materials.
Of course, it's hard for parents to get middle schoolers to take time out for a read-aloud. Parents are busy themselves. But it really is a great way to start conversations and make connections you otherwise would not make with a child whose hormones are raging!
If parents and teachers take just a few minutes each day to read-aloud an excerpt of a high interest (and advanced) book, newspaper, or magazine clipping, it will most likely become a treasured activity that can become a springboard to so many other topics and activities.
Hey, I have trouble finding time to read-aloud with my own children, since they're so busy with homework and independent reading (I'm lucky in that respect). There have been long stretches in my own home when we just didn't read together at all. It's something that really is worth making time for, though. So, I will continue to carve out time to do so when we can, even though my daughter's now in high school!
How do you find time to read-aloud to your independent reader (or, if you are a teacher, to your students)? What reading materials do you like to use? Please do share!
I want to thank one of my new readers, Lauren of the new A Book, A Boy, and a Dog blog, for inspiring me to write this post. She is a middle school teacher who just started a blog, since she's out on maternity leave. I can tell from this post that she is a truly extraordinary teacher. It's worth taking time out to read (it was the springboard for this one), because she has packed so much valuable information (including personal teaching stories) into this one post.
Lauren also has added some fantastic links and articles to her blog, and has inspired me to add some of my own to my sidebar (one of these days), so that they're more accessible to readers. She hasn't been blogging for long, but has already taught me a few things! Please do check out her blog when you get a chance. I'm adding the link to my sidebar.
Oh, and one more IMPORTANT note:Share a Story Literacy Blog Tour next week! I hope you'll join us.