By Stephanie Knight, PhD
Faculty, College of Education
“Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” W.B. Yeates
I want to ignite my students’ love of reading. Moreover, I want to set them up for success, and thus my goal every year is to create a classroom of readers. But first, they need buy-in. So, I saturate them daily with the why.
Here are two biggies:
- As Jim Trelease, author of “The Read-Aloud Handbook,” articulated, “A nation that does not read much does not know much. And a nation that does not know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect the entire nation…the literate and illiterate.” It can be surmised that strong readers can be more empowered to make some of the right choices in life.
- Literacy and the Police (2008) claim that “literacy equals crime prevention.” They continue by saying that in neighborhoods, the lower the literacy, the higher the crime rates. This is why effort is put into implementing literacy programs in low-income areas.
My students can’t dispute these statistics, so I argue that they should start reading more and more books. I can influence them by daily reading aloud. I’ve witnessed the power of reading aloud to my own child and it is no different in my classroom. The serendipity of reading aloud is in the accomplishment of satisfying the Common Core standards such as, “Children’s listening comprehension outpaces reading comprehension until the middle school years” (CCSS, Appendix A, p. 27). For older students, when reading aloud is coupled with conversations, we satisfy the standard stating, “Children benefit from structured conversations with an adult in response to written texts” (CCSS, Appendix A, p. 27).
Regardless of the age of the students, reading out loud to them will have an immense impact on not only their own ability to read well but also on their love of reading. Jim Trelease agrees when he says, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
Here’s how to make it work for you:
- Be excited about what you are reading. Make it fun and engage your students. When reading “The Outsider’s” for instance, the southern dialect and slang used by Ponyboy must be stressed to bring the book to life. You can also change your pace and stress certain words. This allows the students to make a movie in their mind and become engaged in the story.
- Practice thinking aloud with them. Good readers are engaged in what they read. I like to tell my students to talk to their books with a pencil and annotate their thoughts in the margin. However, I have to model this thinking aloud so they can see reading is not passive, it’s a reciprocal relationship with the author. They need to see this modeled so they can see how good readers read.
- Discuss what you read. When I read “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” aloud to my students, I stop often and ask questions. This is essential for making a classroom read-aloud valuable. When reading independently, students can get stuck with the vocabulary or the context, hence stifling their enjoyment. So I model, “OK, here the author is using this word. I haven’t heard it before but in this context, it sounds like it means….” Then, I utilize cooperative learning for discussion like Timed Pair Share. Providing a sentence starter for their discussion helps them be successful in their conversations.
- Model fluent reading. When we model fluency, we are reading with the correct speed, accuracy and expression. The author italicizes, capitalizes and punctuates to show how the written word should be expressed. We can read, “WOW! Now, I can see it!” the way the author intended it to be read. If students can see how to read fluently, their independent reading will be more successful and their enjoyment will soar.
- Spark their curiosity. Shel Silverstein articulated, “The bridge will only take you halfway there, to those mysterious lands you long to see. Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fair, and moonlit woods where unicorns run free. So come and walk awhile with me and share the twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known. But this bridge will only take you halfway there. The last few steps you have to take alone.” Storytelling is a powerful medium that leaves us wanting more. It’s also a mighty vehicle for stirring communication and building community. I love using picture books with my students because it hooks them into a lesson I’m about to teach or helps open up communication about a difficult issue we should discuss. For example, every year I read aloud the book “Ish” to help my students learn not to be afraid to make mistakes in their writing (and in other areas of their lives).
The power of reading aloud has countless benefits. It not only helps students fall in love with the process of reading, it also opens up discussions and builds community. This little practice of daily read-alouds has ignited my classroom into literacy-loving environment.
To learn more about Grand Canyon University’s College of Education and how it can help you impact the lives of students, visit our website or click the Request More Information button on this page.
- Target Crime with Literacy. (2008). Literacy and the Police. Retrieved from
- Trelease, J. (2001). The read-aloud handbook. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.
- Trelease, J. (2014) Retrieved from http://trelease-on-reading.com/
More about Dr. Knight:
Dr. Stephanie Knight is an experienced 7th and 8th grade English language arts educator. She taught in Title One schools for eight years—helping them grow from underperforming to excelling—and then in an independent school for four years. Knight is now is part of Grand Canyon University’s adjunct faculty where she teaches graduate level education and reading courses.
About College of Education
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