The Benefits of Reading Aloud
In a rapidly advancing technological world, many students today no longer have an interest in books. Reading feels time consuming, effortful, and boring when compared to the sensory barrage of a backlit screen with moving images. That does not mean, however, that reading is not necessary and important in education and beyond. Since the dawn of cognitive thought, people have passed stories from one generation to the next, whether written or orally. What a shame it would be to lose such a rich historical tradition! Our stories create who we are, and comprehending them allows us to understand what they mean.
Research has concluded that one of the best ways for students to improve their reading comprehension is to be read to aloud. There is a common misconception that only younger children benefit from being read to, however Kelly Hazzard's 2016 research concluded that students in intermediate grades receive significantly higher comprehension scores after being read to as well (Hazzard, 2016). Additionally, she concluded that students' enjoyment of stories increased markedly when read to aloud and that it fostered within them a greater desire to read independently.
Starting a read-aloud time during homeschooling or other home learning is beneficial to your child's reading comprehension and enjoyment of reading. There are many strategies and techniques that are useful for assisting you in the practice.
Buddy reading is just what it sounds like: your child reads a book with a "buddy." The "buddy" could be you, a sibling, or any other person. Taking turns, your child and the "buddy" pass the same book back and forth and read aloud to one another. They could alternate pages, paragraphs, or even sentences. Such a practice takes some of the burden off your child in their reading. It also adds a social element for students who learn best interpersonally.
Another strategy to try is interactive reading. This technique involves providing your child with a job to do while you read aloud to them. Some good job choices are:
Question Quester: Your child thinks of and writes down three questions they have about the reading.
Word Wizard: Your child writes down words they hear from the reading that they do not know the meaning of.
Illustrator: Your child draws pictures of what they hear in the reading.
Predictor: Your child predicts what will happen next in the story.
Summarizer: Your child orally summarizes what they heard in the passage.
Connector: Your child connects elements from the story to their real life.
Setting Surveyor: Your child draws or writes about the images created in the setting.
Character Analyzer: Your child analyzes the characters' development throughout the story.
There are many other jobs you could dream up and have your child complete while you read. It is sometimes helpful to create small cards that list each job and a description of it. Hand your child one or two before you start reading so that they know what their tasks will be.
Reenactment reading is pretty simple and allows children with creative or performative learning styles to thrive. Simply read part of a story to your child having them listen closely for their favorite part. When you have finished, your child performs a short dramatic interpretation of their favorite part.
Another simple strategy, during choral reading you and your child sit next to one another and read a book aloud together in unison. Choral reading has been shown to enhance students' feelings of confidence and competence in reading.
Read Aloud Bingo
This strategy requires a bit more up-front preparation on your part. Before reading, you will need to create a bingo card that lists important words or phrases from the passage to be read. Give your child some colored pencils or markers, and while you read have them color in the bingo boxes that contain words they hear from the reading.
This activity is particularly interesting to students with technological learning styles. Using Powerpoint or Google Slides, have your child prepare a professional presentation that addresses the setting, characters, and plot of each chapter of the book. Each time after you read, your child can go to their presentation and add more slides to it that address these topics for the section you read that day. They can include pictures in addition to text in their presentation. By the time you finish the book, they will have completed an entire digital book report!
The benefits of enacting a read-aloud program at home are proven through research and can help pull your child away from the screen and toward literature. Even those that require a bit of preparation are worthwhile to help engage your child in a literacy activity that they will enjoy.
As a last thought, make reading aloud fun for yourself as well! When I was a classroom teacher, reading aloud quickly became one of my favorite activities once I started doing dramatic readings. I would change my voice depending on which character was speaking, I would speed up my reading during exciting or suspenseful parts of stories, I would use hand gestures to mimic how the characters might be feeling, and I would express emotion through my tone of voice. Such a practice not only makes reading more fun for you, but it also further enhances your child's understanding of what is happening
Hazzard, Kelly, "The Effects of Read Alouds on Student Comprehension" (2016). Education Masters. Paper 351.