Simon Smith @smithsmm Teachers need to know books really well so they know when to get lost in them, knowing the perfect places to stop and leave children waiting for more. Let the questions be theirs, leave them full of questions but without answers. There is an art to reading a class book.
After saying this I felt I needed to clarify a bit…
There are things that stick with you from school. Moments, memories, bits that change the person you are, bits that set you on a path. For me one of those was being read to everyday. Reading being given real value by a skilled teacher. A teacher who was in completely in charge of the choice, being passionate about the book they are reading and totally showing that when they read it. This was not a book as an end of the day filler it was an important part of the learning day.
Mr Williams was that teacher, that memory, that moment. A master craftsman in the art of reading a story. He would take us to the summit and then bring us careering down the slope on the other side. He would leave us shocked and desperate to know more. The shock I felt when Boxer was carted away in ‘Animal Farm’ and the injustice of it lives with me to this day. He unlocked the understanding in us that books hold something more, that they are portals, to places and emotions and experiences and that we needed to embrace them. The act of him reading made us want to be readers. He made reading important and precious and that is something I’ve hung onto for the last 38 years. Even when I wandered through the bookless wilderness of my late-teens and early twenties. Even after the love of them had been decimated by some pretty inept teaching at A-level, (On re-reading my A-level texts it turns out they were really good) I still knew that books were worth the effort.
There is nothing quite like that feeling of having a class of children hanging on your every word. There is nothing more gratifying than the audible groan when you close the book and leave the class on tenterhooks, desperate for that next bit. It is however more than that. Reading to your class isn’t just a bit of fun it’s important.
I believe that reading to your class everyday is a vital part of what should be happening in our classrooms. I hear lots of people say they can’t afford the time. I would say you can’t afford not to make the time.
This summary from the Open University sums it up well…
The research demonstrated that reading aloud creates a sense of community, building the class repertoire of ‘books in common’ and a shared reading history. Teachers also noted it gives all children access to sophisticated themes and literary language without placing literacy demands on them. At the close of the project, reading aloud was widely viewed as a key strand of a reading for pleasure pedagogy, one which demonstrates the power and potential of literature and thus influences children’s perceptions of the pleasure to be found in reading.
Adapted from pages 94-97 Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S. and Safford, K. (2014) Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for pleasure, London/New York: Routledge
Through reading to our class we build that sense of tribe and belonging, a shared history and experience (this is one of the massive advantages of primary teaching) When I walk into our classes and that reading history sings out, they have a common language and history regardless of background. Reading aloud allows us to challenge and allows children to access books beyond their reading years, it allows our classes to opens pupils eyes to the wonder that great books provide and it does it without us even saying that ‘reading is important.’ and is a key part in helping us develop pupil’s understanding that reading can be a pleasurable thing, a thing worth doing.
It is however more than that as author Ross Montgomery points your teaching them..
Ross Montgomery @mossmontmomery Replying to @smithsmm Agreed! There’s no better model for children reading than hearing a story read aloud well – youre literally teaching them how a narrative voice works and helping them internalise it.
How you do it is key…
There is an importance of creating a flow not destroying it. I have witnessed many a great book destroyed by over-analysis and picking it apart until it breaks under the scrutiny. That’s not to say you don’t clarify meaning or explore vocabulary, there is a balance to be achieved.
My final argument is that planning it involves reading a book…Perfect.
Top 7 tips for reading aloud…
- Pick books you like…it shows. Trudging through a book that you really don’t like will only transmit to your class that you don’t really like it. You are the teacher the choice is yours. I get that world cups of books can be motivating I would just say make sure you’re happy with the books you’re offering as a choice. (This can be a challenge if you are handed a core reading list)
- Pick books that challenge. (push the envelope and take children out of their comfort zone.)
- Have copies of the book and other books by the author available. It’s amazing how many children will be inspired to read the book because you have.
- Knowing the book well helps you read it well. Knowing the story, the characters the key moments allows to share the story more effectively. Knowing the book allows you to become the controller of the story and how it plays out. It also helps you know where the sticking points might be. I get that sometimes it’s fun to discover the joys of a book with the class, it is however not always the best way to get the best out of the time or the book.
- Make it important. Don’t put it as a throw-away end of the day that then disappears as you have to finish your work. Give it a time and stick to it. Make it an ingrained habit.
- It is a performance, reading aloud is a thing that we need to practice. It takes time to get good at it. Start with some great short stories or some brilliant poetry build your repertoire and confidence. (Paul Jennings was always my go to. I’m still a dab hand at Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake)
- Go under the ‘spell.’ Allow your book to flow and get lost in it together.
- Sometimes break the rules and allow it to go over, or grab a moment.
I believe that reading to your class everyday is a vital part of what should be happening in our classrooms.
I hear lots of people say they can’t afford the time, personally I would say you can’t afford not to make the time.
Now …get reading!
Added bonus…Rik Mayall Reading “George’s Marvellous Medicine” …just brilliant