Reading Aloud to Children (page 2)
There is a positive correlation between being read to—both at home and in school—and reading achievement (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985). Some of the benefits of reading to children follow:
- It stimulates and broadens children's interest in quality literature in a variety of genres.
- It allows children to experience books that are too difficult for them to read independently.
- It gives children the opportunity to hear excellent literature they might never read for themselves, such as great books with slow beginnings and books above their reading ability.
- It broadens children's background experiences, which builds their schemata.
- It introduces children to a wide range of written language, which helps them expand their vocabulary and their repertoire of sentence patterns.
- It shows children that adults enjoy reading, thereby encouraging reading as a lifetime activity.
I have stressed that children will benefit greatly if their parents read to them daily (or at least several times a week) from the time they are born until they tell you they want to read for themselves (or they want to read to you). Unfortunately, many parents do not read to their children. They do not have the time, or they simply do not see the need. Therefore, teachers often must supplement (or substitute for) the reading of parents throughout the elementary school years. I recommend that teachers devote a minimum of fifteen minutes a day to reading aloud from literature. This should be a regular part of the daily curriculum; it should not be used as a reward when the children finish all their work, or omitted as a punishment when they misbehave.
Select books and poems that you like and that you think will appeal to children. Fiction books should generally be fast-paced and contain well-developed characters and generous dialogue. Let children help you select the books to read aloud, making sure that all genres are represented within the school year. When reading to children, let them have a good look at the picture on the page before reading the text. Allowing children to study the illustration before listening to the text will encourage them to make mental predictions that will aid their comprehension and enjoyment of the book.
Asking children questions before, during, and after reading a book or chapter enhances their comprehension (or lets you know when they do not comprehend). Two important guidelines:
Avoid asking questions that can be answered by yes or no. They require almost no thinking because the answer is usually phrased in the question. For example:
Yes or no question: "Do you think Sylvester will ever make wishes with a magic pebble again?"
Divergent question: "What do you think Sylvester will do if he ever finds another magic pebble?"
Possible answers: Ignore it, bury it, throw it in the lake, tell his parents
Avoid asking only memory-level questions that can be answered by who, what, when, where, and why. These literal questions require very little thinking and give you little information about children's comprehension. For example:
Memory-level question: "What happened when Sylvester saw the lion?"
Answer: He got scared, so he wished he were a rock.
Divergent question: "What could Sylvester have done to be safe from the lion?"
Possible answers: He could wish he could fly away, wish he were invisible, wish he were a bigger lion, wish the lion would not be hungry, or wish the lion fell asleep.
The answers to higher-thinking-level questions will contain the who, what, when, where, and why of the story, but they also require the listener to move beyond the memory level. See Box 14.1 for ideas on phrasing questions that require a variety of thinking skills.
It is not necessary to ask questions in a hierarchy (i.e., from category I through category VII). What is desirable is to ask children questions that require varied thinking.
Box 14.1: Levels of Questioning
I. Memory level
II. Translation level
In your own words, tell. . . .
How else might you say . . . ?
Which picture shows . . . ?
Describe. . . .
Tell how. . . .
III. Interpretation level
Compare. . . .
Tell what you think. . . .
Is . . . greater than . . . ?
Why is it called . . . ?
Explain why. . . .
What caused . . . ?
What conclusions have you reached about . . . ?
IV. Application level
When might you . . . ?
Where could you . . . ?
Which would you use if . . . ?
How will this affect . . . ?
Suggest two possible ways to. . . .
V. Analysis level
Why is . . . ?
What evidence is there that . . . ?
In what way might . . . ?
Give some instances in which. . . .
Which of these would . . . ?
VI. Synthesis level
How many ways can you think of to . . . ?
What would happen if . . . ?
Devise a plan to. . . .
How can you explain . . . ?
VII. Evaluation level
Should . . . be permitted to . . . ? Why?
Is . . . accurate? Why do you think this?
Was it wrong/right for . . . ? Why do you think so?
How well did . . . ?
What is the most important . . . ? Why?
What are the chances that . . . ?
Which of the following . . . ?
Source: DeHaven, Edna P. Teaching and Learning the Language Arts. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979 (pp. 112–113).
When you read a fiction book to a group of children for the first time, the type of questions you ask should be different from those you ask when you are reading a nonfiction book or a familiar story. New stories lend themselves well to prediction questions. An excellent activity that will engage children in divergent thinking while they are listening to a new story is the listening–prediction activity. This can be done with either a picture book or a chapter in a juvenile novel; however, the book must have a predictable plot that follows the story structure of characters, setting, problem, goal, events, and resolution.
The prediction activity is effective only when the listeners have not previously heard or read the story. Therefore, after selecting a predictable book, the first step is to read the title and show the book cover or first illustration and ask, "Has anyone heard or read this book?" If several of the children are familiar with the book, select an alternate book. If only one or two have heard it, tell them, "Now, I know you will know all the answers to the questions I am going to ask, so for this story, I want you to zip up your lips, and see if the other children can figure out what you already know." (Usually, those children will attentively—and smugly—listen to hear whether the others give appropriate answers.)
After reading the title and showing the book cover or first illustration, engage the children in a discussion to build background schemata for understanding the topic of the story, being sure to introduce any unfamiliar words. Then, ask children to predict what might happen in the story. (It is important not to say, "What will happen in the story," because that gives kids the idea that this is a "guess-the-right-answer" activity.)
Let children record their predictions in their literature journals (special logs they keep to record the books they have read and their responses to the books). You may also want to write a few of their predictions on the board. After recording predictions, read a few pages of the story, and then stop and ask listeners to confirm, reject, or revise their predictions, explaining why they made their choices.
Read a few more pages, and just before something important or interesting happens, ask children to predict what might happen next. Ask them to justify their predictions, and listen to determine whether they are logical answers. The objective is for children to make plausible predictions based on story structure, on what has happened so far in the story, and on their prior knowledge—not for them to guess the right answer.
Read a page or two until the episode occurs; then ask listeners to confirm or reject their predictions. Repeat the last two steps (no more than three times in one session). After completing the book, ask the children to predict what might happen to the characters if the author wrote a sequel.
Children have much to gain from a prediction activity. It encourages creative divergent thinking and the use of logic, while heightening curiosity and interest in stories (Temple & Gillet, 1989). Box 14.3 summarizes the steps of this activity.
Box 14.3: Steps of the Listening-Prediction Activity
- Select a predictable book children have not heard.
- Read the title and show the book cover (or first illustration), and engage listeners in a discussion to build background.
- Ask, "What might happen in this story?" Record predictions.
- Read a few pages, and ask children to confirm, reject, or revise their predictions, explaining why.
- Read a few more pages, and just before something important or interesting happens, ask, "What might happen next?" Ask listeners to justify their predictions.
- Read a page or two until the episode is revealed, and then ask children to confirm or reject their predictions.
- Repeat the last two steps (no more than three times in one session).
- After completing the book, ask, "If the author writes a sequel, what might happen to the characters next?"
© ______ 2006, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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