How to Read Aloud to Children
The following techniques can help teachers and parents read aloud successfully to children. Effective oral reading is not simply a matter of opening a book and giving voice to the words on the page, hoping that children will listen. Rather, it involves making deliberate choices about how to prepare children for active and critical listening. Frequently, when children listen to a text read aloud, they may enjoy the experience, but their minds may not be as fully engaged as possible. Our goal is to engage the minds (and hearts!) of children as fully as possible when we read aloud (Fox 1993). One way to help children bring more mind to bear when they listen to us read to them is to let them know the kinds of things they should listen for-things they would most likely not think of on their own. By using the following techniques, we can help children discover many new ways to listen actively and critically to texts. When children learn to listen actively and critically, they will also find new, dramatic, and meaningful avenues into the world of spoken literature.
While it is always a good idea to read a text straight through from beginning to end, it is also a good idea to stop occasionally to reread a passage and to stop and alert listeners to upcoming passages (Whyte 1994). When we stop to reread or to alert listeners, we are helping our listeners become aware of how language works to create a setting, describe a character, describe an object or action, or present ideas in new ways. In other words, we might think of ourselves as tour guides (Pressley 1998). As we lead our listeners into the world of the text, we need to sometimes stop and point out to them things they might miss if they weren't invited to look for them. If we fail to stop and reread, to point out word-vistas along the tour, we are not giving our listeners the opportunity to catch sight of the interworkings of language.
When children listen to texts read aloud, it is sometimes like watching a train pass at a railroad crossing: if the train is moving too fast, the viewer doesn't have a chance to see the cars whirring by. When we stop and reread, we are giving our listeners a chance to look carefully at some of the wordy "railroad cars" that just flew by.
The same is true when we stop and point out a passage that we are going to read. By letting our listeners know that an important passage or a passage rich in description is forthcoming, they can alter their expectations and change their perspectives. Through such alterations, the listeners can ready themselves to listen more carefully and more critically.
Tour Guide Process No. 1
- Choose a passage (or an entire text); read aloud for a few moments.
- Stop and say something like, "You know, that sentence (or paragraph or stanza) that I just read was so wonderful that I want to read it again." For instance, if you are reading Zeke Pippin by William Steig, you might stop after you have read the description of Zeke making his way through the dark, tangled forest after his escape from the trio of villainous dogs, and say, "Wow, that description was so powerful that I just have to read it again!"
- Read the passage again.
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