The Power of Read-Alouds


I am four years old. I am sitting on my mother’s bed, a large bellowing thing engulfed in a sea of pillows, sheets, covers. It’s night time, way past my bedtime, and I’m begging my mother to read me another story.

“But we’ve already read three books tonight Lindsey,” she says smiling.

“How about just this one?” I say, grasping a book with a yellow cover and silly looking pictures I’ve found tucked next to my bed, a story I’ve read countless times but can’t get enough of.

She smiles, “This one is one of your favorites, isn’t it?”onefishtwofish

I nod.

“Ok, Lindsey, we can read it, but after this, it’s time for bed.”

The book I am clutching in my tiny fingers is Dr Suess’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  A book I adore for how my mother reads in a sing-songy voice, the pictures dancing on the page; her voice a musical rhythm in the background.

Emilie Buchwald once wrote,  “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” For me that was so true. With each book read to me as a young child, I became intrigued with the way authors could magically weave stories together; a tapestry woven by endless imagination.

As an educator I am often struck by how much parents or guardians reading to their children means for development in the classroom.  I can say that, without a doubt, my students whose guardians read to them consistently at home came to me with enhanced vocabulary, fluency, and literacy skills; but above all else, a more naturally ingrained curiosity and love of storytelling.

According to Read Aloud 15 Mins, a national non-profit working to help make 15 minutes of reading aloud daily to children a reality, “Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.”

In fact, research has shown us that when parents read-aloud to their children, even if just for 15 minutes a day, it can  help spark invaluable comprehension skills, vocabulary development, fluency, and help instill a life-long love of reading. Reading aloud to young children has even been thought to help spark brain development.

As a special education teacher for grades K-8, and then for high school, one thing each of my students had in common was a love of read-alouds. Since so many of my students struggled to interpret and decode text on their own, they loved when I would engage with them in books, articles, short stories and more; my voice helping capture their interest and satiate a desire for text that may otherwise have been inaccessible.

Indeed, reading aloud to both children and students of all ages is a powerful form of literacy instruction. For some great tips for parents, guardians, and educators for creating engaging read-alouds, read this article “Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension” by Reading Rockets, a wonderful national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources to help both parents and teachers with literacy skills for struggling readers.

This past Monday, March 2nd, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday, which was also Read Across America Day. As someone who has a huge love of Dr. Seuss and all things reading, I was honored to be able to read aloud to several classrooms at Doug Robertson’s elementary school in Oregon. (You can read all about the awesome event here on Doug’s  blog or follow him on twitter @theWeirdTeacher.)

Thank you to the students at Mr. Robertson’s elementary school; It was so wonderful being able to share my love of Dr. Seuss and reading aloud with you! I hope we can help spread the message of how powerful reading to students can be across the country!