May 17, 2011

Discouraging Read-Alouds

I forgot to post my monthly GLMA blog post, so here it is:

I heard a horrible rumor about a school librarian that was actually discouraging teachers in his/her school from read alouds.  I’m not one to listen to gossip and especially not one to share it but I’ve been thinking about this ever since and so feel compelled to write about it. Now, like most rumors, I doubt this one is true. A librarian?  Discouraging teacher read-alouds?  That would be kind of like a dentist discouraging you to brush your teeth wouldn’t it?
Maybe I misheard.  Maybe the gossiper meant the librarian was encouraging read-alouds.  Yeah, that must have been it.  But then, why would anyone be talking about that?  That’s what we spend a good deal of our time on, isn’t it?  I know not only am I actually reading aloud to classes but I’m often showing teachers new books that would be good read-alouds, suggesting more when they bring one up to check out and updating lists on the wiki of good read-alouds for certain grades and subjects.
As one of my favorite children’s lit. professors used to constantly reiterate: “Read aloud every day in every subject.”
My art teacher was delighted when I shared Chalk and Pete the Cat with her this year.  I’ve done much the same for many of the teachers in the building in a variety of subjects.  Yes, there are great non-fiction red-alouds!  Yes, you can turn that into an easy and fun reader’s theater! Yes, yes, yes!
The only problem I’ve ever heard with read-alouds is when someone doesn’t correctly match up their students and the book being read.  Often this comes from inexperienced or lazy teachers who haven’t read the book.  At one school I worked in, a fourth grade teacher picked up The Giver.  Maybe because it had an award on it, I don’t know.  It was a little much for that class and one student, upset at the ending, complained to parents.  The media committee in that school decided that the book was not appropriate for elementary and pulled it form the shelves, sending the copies to the middle school.
Maybe something like that happened with the school librarian in question.  Even so, that’s a dramatic and rare example that just reinforces the importance of the librarian’s job in helping find the right read-alouds for the right teachers and grade levels.  You can’t have people just pulling any old book off the shelf and reading it.  (Yes, I’ve seen this done, usually with bad results.)
So we need to encourage read-alouds and help teachers find the right books so they can…
Read aloud every day in every subject!


Rebecca said...

Discouraging read alouds- that's craziness! As a reading specialist, I have limited time with my students weekly- but I always squeeze in read alouds- the kids so look forward to it. It builds fleuncy, vocabulary, motivation to read- to name a few. A must have in every classroom, every day! Great post!

C.B. James said...

Oh I bet it was true. Haven't we all heard it all. It's not a good idea, mind you. I'm currently reading a book aloud to my 6th grade for our Rome unit in history. They are loving it.

Beverly said...

I LOVE read-aloud! I read aloud to my children until they were well into their teens (I would still do it if my daughter hadn't moved out and my son (now 17) simply doesn't have time - I am sure that he thinks he is too old for it too, but doesn't say that to me - bless him. I can't imagine anyone discouraging ANY read aloud. I wish someone would read to me everyday!

Ms. Yingling said...

For the record, I HATE reading aloud and I hate being read to, but I never, ever discourage other people from doing it. It's just so slow!Plus, there's just no time in the three minutes I get with each class every week. (My 7th grader also complains that it's so slow, so it must be a family thing.)

Victoria said...

It was my 4th grade teacher that read Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein aloud to our class. I immediately fell in love with the book and the poems. I think that may have been the impetus to read aloud to my children. What an opportunity missed by so many if read-alouds were discouraged.

Jacquie said...

I have a wonderful read-a-loud story. One of our science teachers has a very challenging elective class this year.Very unmotivated students.She decided to start every class by reading to them.

I suggested "Hunger Games" and the kids LOVED it.One senior boy could not wait to find out what happened, and since the teacher was reading our only copy,he made his mother take him to a bookstore.He'd never been to a bookstore in his life. He'd never read a whole book in his life.But he purchased and devoured all three books in the series, and then came to the library to discuss it with me. What a win! It is NEVER too late!

Jim Randolph said...


Wow, what an amazing story!

Everyone else: thanks so much for the thoughtful comments!