I went to six different elementary schools and I don’t ever remember my teacher reading a novel to us. I am sure it must have happened, but it did not have an impact on me. Maybe this is why I was determined when I started teaching that I was going to read aloud to my class. It is by far my favorite time of the day. There are teachers in my building that DO NOT do a daily read aloud. Their reasons for not doing it are baffling. I mean really spending 10-15 minutes a day WILL NOT hurt their chances of success on the CSAP. The reality is that 10-15 minutes will help their chances of success in LIFE! (Enough of my soap box) Carol and Mary Lee have written wonderful observations about read alouds. Mary Lee has a link to a new blog by Rick Walton Why Read Aloud? that has some interesting comments. I want to add my thoughts to theirs.
Over my years of teaching I have taught first through fourth grade. There have been kids from families barely able to get their kids to school, English Language Learners and kids that belong to country clubs. Each and every one needs to be read to. Carol used to start our faculty meeting with a read aloud. It was the best part. So, even we need them! Back to kids.
I got into the blog world because of read alouds. When I went up to third grade (I mean started teaching third grade) I wanted to find something that looked good to me and my students. I asked around the school and teachers suggested Roald Dahl (most teachers read him, but not my cup of tea) Little House on the Prairie (sorry having a root canal sounded better!) The Littles and on and on. You get the picture fine books but I wanted WOW! With just a little research outside my school and the help of Carol I started finding some fantastic books to read aloud to kids.
Read aloud is a special time. It is right after lunch. It gives the kids a chance to relax and at the same time prepare for the afternoon. I rarely read the same book twice. There are a few exceptions. I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone years ago and re-read it this year. Most of the class had never heard or read the book. The day after I finished the book one boy came up to me, “Mr. Kimmal can I borrow Harry Potter to read?” I looked at him and said “D, we just finished it.” “I know but I think I can read it by myself.” He took the book from the shelf looked at me with a huge smile and said “Wow, I can’t wait.” He is still reading the book and doesn’t read his joke book everyday.
Another book I read aloud often is Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. It is a narrative of Ms. Roy’s aunt. Her aunt was one the few surviving children of the Lodz Ghetto. It is told in a dairy form and introduces children to the Holocaust. It is a powerful book that leads to many interesting discussions. It is a book that prompts kids to look deeper into our history. A couple of years ago a Jewish student in class was greatly touched by the books and spent a couple of years researching the Holocaust. His fifth grade independent project on the Lodz Ghetto was incredible.
The other book that I have read more then once is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I had no intention of reading it twice, even thought it is a GREAT READ ALOUD! Last year I taught a 3/4 split. Most of the 10 of the 12 fourth graders had been in my third grade class. They talked about so much that the class begged, pleaded, promised extra good behavior if I would read it. Little did they know that the begging would have been enough. Here are a few of the things that happened during this read aloud. First, kids loved it so much you could hear a pin drop on the carpet. The book is filled with great stopping points. At one stopping points the class was so upset that I stopped that another teacher entered my room because she thought something bad had happened. “Mr. Kimmal is everything alright?” “Yes, they are just mad because read aloud is over.” It is hard to describe the look on her face. I’m sure she was thinking are they really that upset about a read aloud being over. Next, my building is old and I have two doors into my room. One day one of the doors was closed and when I got to an eerie part of the book the closed door creaked open just a little causing nervous laughter. Soon after my principal walked through the other door and the kids screamed. She was startled and said “I’m not scary!” Finally, I find the ending of The Graveyard Book very touching. “Mr. Kimmal What’s wrong with your voice? Why does it sound funny?” I replied that I was fine and luckily did not cry.
As I said at the beginning read aloud is my favorite time of the day. It is a non-negotiable. Patrick Allen just Twitted “Remember when children quoted authors? Now they talk about their reading levels.” I don’t want my students growing up just thinking about reading levels or CSAP scores. In 40 years I want them to remember their favorite read aloud.