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Make Holiday Time Read-Aloud Time!


Curriculum Center

The December school break is a good time for parents to curl up with their children and read books. By reading with children during the holiday break, parents will help maintain children's reading ability and get a sense of any reading problems their children might have. Research also shows that reading and discussing books with children helps build their vocabularies.





Teachers have long recognized the benefits of reading aloud. Julie Coiro, a special-education teacher and contributing editor for Suite ties reading aloud to a curriculum theme. To give her students a broad perspective, she collects nonfiction and fiction related to particular themes.

"I like to pull in books at many different reading levels," Coiro told Education World. "This way readers will appreciate the occasional book that's too easy, but informative, and the book that's way too difficult to read but has great pictures."

Other ways teachers use reading aloud to enrich the curriculum include the following:

Read aloud for comprehension
Repeated reading not only helps children learn to read but also has an impact on school success. Lifelong enjoyment of reading is directly related to daily reading. Children see the pictures and print up close, ask questions, and make comments.

"I read aloud to share wonderful stories, poems, and factual texts with children," wrote Sharon Taberski in an Instructor magazine article, "Motivating Readers" (May/June 1998). "Sometimes I select chapter books that are slightly above the children's independent reading level or picture books that lend themselves to stop-and-start discussions."

Daily read-alouds help children "internalize language and structures they'll apply to their own reading one day. My daily read-alouds also demonstrate how to understand what's being read."

Taberski suggests three comprehension strategies for class read-alouds.

  • Strategy 1: Think about the story. "When I read the story, I stop at various points. My students and I then discuss what's happening and what we think will happen next."
  • Strategy 2: Map the characters. "As we read the story, we continually refer back to what we already know about the characters and add new information. The children make predictions based on this information."
  • Strategy 3: Map the story. The story map includes information about the characters, setting, problem, main events, and resolution. The students review the story map before reading a new chapter.

"Because I introduce these strategies during read-aloud, the children support one another and become confident enough to try strategies on their own," Taberski added.

Read to highlight math concepts
"When I plan for reading aloud during math time, I choose books that invite my students to think and talk mathematically, that pose a problem, or that highlight a particular math concept or strategy," said Donna Maxim. She works at the Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine. (See "Math Reading Aloud," The NERA Journal,Volume 34, Number 1, 1998.)

"Children's literature plays an important role in confirming the notion that math is more than computation on paper and provides opportunities for learners to develop the language of math," Maxim explained.

To help students predict the outcome of a book, Maxim asks them what the title might mean. What problems might be posed? "I teach math concepts and strategies during math class and use literature as a resource when teaching math concepts," she said.

Two examples of books she uses to teach children to think and talk mathematically are

  • Counting on Frank, by Rod Clements (Garth Stevens Publishing, 1991). The main characters are Frank, a dog, and his master. The young boy and dog make wild calculations and share bizarre information about many things. The book gives students opportunities to solve problems as a group.
  • How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz (Scholastic, 1985). The author explains large numbers to children by comparing the numbers to concepts familiar to children. "If you wanted to count to a million, it would take you about 23 days."

Involve parents and others
Dr. Jimmy Cook, teaching editor for Teaching K-8, likes the warm, fuzzy feeling he gets when he reads to students.

In a Teaching K-8 article he wrote, "It's All in the Telling" (February 1998), Cook recommends that teachers build a portfolio of entertaining, informative, and age-appropriate read-aloud books and invite a guest to read at least once a week. Likely candidates include parents and grandparents, the city mayor, and the chief of police. "Children become excited when a new face arrives to perform some act of kindness in the classroom," said Cook.

How important is reading aloud? Catherine Paglin seemed to answer this question in "In the Beginning," an article published in NW Education Magazine (Fall 1998). "From being read to repeatedly, children learn that reading is enjoyable, that pictures provide clues to the story, that books and print go from left to right, that print represents words and meaning, that stories have a beginning and an end. By listening, watching, and asking questions, they add to their vocabulary and increase their comprehension."