Reflection on Reading Aloud

“Books can add immeasurable richness to our daily lives. Books enhance our knowledge and experience, help us to solve problems, and can provide pleasure and relaxation. Although the value of literature may vary from individual to individual, literature’s greatest value might be the delight we often derive from reading” (Stoodt, 322).

“Children, who from an early age are exposed to good literature, begin to get the sense of the power and beauty of language. As children listen to or read stories and poems, they experience this power” (Elkind, 3). Reading can bring power! Listening to stories can bring power! The power of the written word combined with the power of the imagination can lead to a deeper understanding of the world around us. “Words are merely words, but real literature for any age is words chosen with skill and artistry to give the readers pleasure and to help them understand themselves and others” (Lukens, 10).

Not enough importance has been placed on the value of reading aloud to children. “Beginning in infancy and throughout their elementary years and beyond, children should hear books read aloud” (Lynch-Brown, 233). Some parents do it, mostly at bedtime, to make their child relax and fall asleep easier. Their approach is not calculated, they do not choose books for their rich, diverse language; in order to build background knowledge; or to delve deeper into their child’s feelings. But, those types of learning happen when a child hears a story read to them. A task so simple can bring so much!

That’s where, as teachers, we need to be calculated in how we plan our literary instruction. If reading aloud is important to the growth and development of our students, then we need to be doing it ~ for all students, at all grade levels. “Reading aloud can be done with students from preschool through high school, making reading an enjoyable part of each day” ( “This teaching strategy is just as important in the development of intermediate grade level readers as it is in kindergarten” (Lynch-Brown, 233). “Reading aloud to middle and high school students can motivate them to read, enticing them with good storytelling and providing a model of excellent reading; phrasing; expression; and pronunciation. Reading aloud to students, whose second language is English, can help them to make connections between written and spoken language” (

“Children of all ages enjoy listening to good stories” (Stoodt, 327). When planning for each read aloud session, teachers must select materials for reading carefully. Any type of text can be acceptable: books; poems; newspaper articles; or magazine sections. However, whatever is chosen must be interesting and give room for engagement in follow up activities, when appropriate.

First, choose excellent books that are written at one or two levels above their independent reading level. “Young people have a listening level that significantly surpasses their reading level. Reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible to students and exposes them to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of their everyday speech” ( “Teachers should read books that children can’t or don’t read for themselves. Reading these books aloud to children enables them to enjoy selections they would otherwise miss” (Stoodt, 327). We need “to provide students with exciting and stimulating experiences in reading matter that may be too difficult for them to read themselves but not beyond their ability to enjoy and appreciate” (Lynch-Brown, 233). “Whether instruction calls for fiction; nonfiction; or informational books, they should provide information in a way that captivates readers” (Moss and Young, 73). “Children who are read to discover the rewards of reading and are motivated to learn to read” (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor, 419).

Second, in order to create the best experience, teachers need to be familiar with the book to be presented. Teachers should read the book beforehand, making sure that its content matches with current instructional goals; has appropriate language; and contains illustrations with “teachable moments” (those are my favorites). These “teachable moments” could mean having the children predict the plot; anticipate character responses; or solve any dilemmas that arise during reading. “Be alert to stopping points at which you might invite predictions or discussion. Monitor your own responses to the story. The things you notice or wonder about are worth remembering because these spontaneous responses can become conversation starters following the reading” (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor, 422).

Third, develop a routine for reading aloud. Children should be taught how to accept the material being presented and to behave appropriately during each session. “For students to profit from read-aloud experiences, they need to be attentive. You can organize students for reading aloud by having them remove distractions; having them sit quietly in a designated area; and asking them to be ready to listen” (Lynch-Brown, 234). Prepare the students for any new vocabulary or concepts that may surface while reading. “Ask students to predict what the text will be about; have them do a picture walk through the text; introduce unfamiliar words; and build background knowledge using strategies like K-W-L” (Moss and Young, 73).

Fourth, enjoy the reading time. Too often, we find that our schedules do not allow for worthwhile reading activities. We have too many interruptions in our day ~ fire drills; pull outs; reading groups; special classes; and guests. Take advantage of the time when you have the entire class together. Consider it to be one of those “cozy, cuddle up” times and that you have enough arms to reach around all of your students while you read to them! It is especially important to have your students see you enjoy this reading time as well. “Vary your reading pace to reflect in mood and emotion; read expressively; and use different voices when appropriate” (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor, 424). Allow for interruptions within the story, especially for younger students. Younger children often forget their observations if they are forced to wait. “There may be a time when you need to guide students through a tricky part of the story or fill in information important to understanding the story” (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor, 424).

After reading, arrange for your students to further connect with the book by creating discussion activities. Students love to share their feelings after reading a good book. Use the whole class discussion method where the teacher becomes the facilitator to access understanding. “Whole-class discussion centers on the different ways students feel and think about the book; its characters; its events; and its outcomes” (Lynch-Brown, 245). The literature response group can be used to create smaller groups of children who discuss and respond to the book. The teacher can use what she knows about each student to create these groups. “Students share their responses with peers where they learn to work with one another and to value the views and opinions of others” (Lynch-Brown, 245).

The teacher may choose to set up individual conferences where the teacher allows the child to reflect on the book just read. “The conference is focused on what the student thought and felt about the book. Some teachers ask the student to read aloud a favorite part and tell why that part was selected” (Lynch-Brown, 246). The method of questioning can be used in either type of group as listed above. The teacher creates open-ended questions for students to answer relating to the story as a whole. “The best ideas for questions to stimulate book discussions flow directly from your response to the particular book and why you want the students to experience the book. Your questions will tell your students what you believe is important in reading” (Lynch-Brown, 247). “When students are invited to share their own connections to a story, they sometimes offer personal experiences or they connect the stories with others they have read. Children frequently share some of their most insightful thinking when they compare stories” (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor, 465). Additional activities that can be prepared for literature discussions could be: creative drama; readers’ theater; journal writing; story maps; language charts; book reports; and art projects. Using today’s technology can provide for a wide range of responses that are visually stimulating and keep students engaged.

In summary, reading aloud should be the “centerpiece of a curriculum in literature” (Lynch-Brown, 233). “Read alouds are the ideal vehicle for encouraging children to think in response to literature. Children become acquainted with the cadences of written language and discover how print functions. Children can acquire real-world knowledge that is so critical for success in school” (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor, 419).

For reading aloud to be effective, teachers need to plan ahead by choosing a good book and pre-reading it. Don’t get discouraged ~ it may take reading several books to find the “right” one! Encourage questions; observations; and time for predictions during the reading.  Develop a time within each day to read aloud. Make the space inviting with certain listening rules. Enjoy the time spent reading to your students. Offer creative outlets for students to share their experience with the book.

In order for our children to become good readers, we must read to them. How can we be remiss in showing them how to be rich and powerful ~ such as reading brings?


Elkind, David. (1978). Language Arts and the Young Child. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Lukens, Rebecca. (1990). A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature: Fourth Edition. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Lynch-Brown, Carol and Carl Tomlinson. (1992). Essentials of Children’s Literature. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Moss, Barbara and Terrell Young. (2010). Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Stoodt, Barbara. (1981). Reading Instruction. Hougton Mifflin Company. Teacher Vision.

“Reading Aloud”.

Temple, Charles; Miriam Martinez; Junko Yokota; and Alice Naylor. Children’s Books in Children’s Hands: An Introduction to Their Literature. (1998). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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Ghost Town At Sundown

Osbourne, Mary Pope.  1997.  Ghost Town At Sundown. New York:  NY.  Scholastic, Inc.

This book was one of the selections chosen by Scholastic as being similar in genre to Neil Gaiman’s book, The Graveyard Book.  The grade level equivalent is 4.3 compared to Gaiman’s 6.0.

The entire series of The Magic Tree House is great as a read-aloud for students.  I learned about Magic Tree House books through one of my friends during graduate school.  I began reading from them about 3 years ago and find that students love them just the same year after year.  When students from my class get into first and second grades, they return to visit me to tell me that they, all by themselves, are now reading about Jack and Annie.  What a great feeling!

This particular book is #10 from the series.  I have found that it is best to begin at the beginning and stick with the books, in order, until this book.  After #10, books can be read out of order, and even into the Merlin Missions, and virtually no information be lost.  In my opinion, books # 1 through #10 build Jack and Annie as solid, predictable characters.  Even though the plots change, students can still anticipate Jack and Annie’s reactions to their new missions; new riddles; and new adventures they encounter.

I have already read this book to my class, but I can’t remember exactly what month.  I do remember that my children loved it, every chapter.  But, who wouldn’t?  Cowboys; wild horse chases; rattlesnakes; and singing ghosts.  As their adventure begins, Jack and Annie met again with Morgan le Fay, the sister of Merlin the Magician.  Morgan has acquired Jack and Annie as secretive helpers who gather clues; information; and “things” that help Morgan solve mysteries of history.  Each mystery requires that Jack and Annie be transported back into another time period.  This time, they will be traveling back into the days of the Wild West.  They arrive in an abandoned town called Rattlesnake Flats.  Once there, they hear strange noises coming from the saloon.  They investigate only to find that no one is there, just a player piano.  Annie ventures over to the general store where she and Jack put on more appropriate clothing ~ cowboy boots and hats.  Jack’s boots do not fit his feet and he complains throughout the entire book! From inside the general store, Jack and Annie hear loud hoofprints of thundering horses.  They hide in nearby barrels, but Jack’s allergies almost give their position away!  I think my favorite part of the book is when Jack and Annie meet Slim:  “a deep voice stopped him cold ~ hands up or I’ll shoot!” (p. 31).

Slim becomes helpful to Jack and Annie in finding the horse thieves and setting the horses free.  During their adventure, Jack learns how to ride a horse; Annie gains another animal friend; and they solve Morgan’s riddle with help from Slim.  And, they get to meet the “person” making all of that noise back in the saloon.

When they return to Frog Creek, they get another surprise when they read that the author of their research book is actually Slim!

It would be difficult to compare the two books:  Ghost Town At Sundown and The Graveyard Book.  Even though they may fall within the same category, their plots are completely different.  Using the interest inventory I conducted earlier, I do know that my students would have liked hearing from The Graveyard Book.  But, for now, I will keep reading from the Magic Tree House and continue finding pleasure in the ominous adventures of Jack and Annie.  Maybe next year . . .

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Neil Gaiman’s Acceptance Speech

I very much believe that Neil Gaiman deserved to win the Newbery Award Medal for his book, The Graveyard Book.

The idea for his book was unique and just beyond believable.  All of Bod’s experiences were real boy experiences, but the views and advice he received were unnatural because his guardians were unnatural.

I think that I like Neil Gaiman better after having read his speech.  More so than watching him read from his book.  The speech told of his early beginnings, to which he always added a hint of humor.  Spending his days in the local library where the librarians allowed him to go wherever he wanted; read whatever he wanted; and encouraged him to read more.  I cannot imagine that our local librarians nowadays would allow anything of the sort.  I would like to think that they would encourage our children in their reading choices, but I can’t even be certain of that.  Some are too concerned that books stay arranged in their proper order; check out be performed in an orderly fashion; and time should be spent on finding the right book for your reading level, not your interest level.  There are so many needs for improvement!  I loved that Mr. Gaiman read “hungrily” and “devoured” every book of every type, yet felt too “uncool” to eat the sandwiches that his dad would pack for lunch.  It almost sounded as if he could have lived on the books alone!  And, at his age, he probably really felt that way!  But, he was sure to send the warning that libraries are not free daycare ~ hilarious!

I loved his honesty when giving reasons for his wanting to write this book.  Even though its subject matter strayed from the normal type of book, he wrote it “because I was interested in the stories; I wanted to find out what happened to the people I made up; and I wrote them to feed my family”.  By having the solitary experiences with stories as a child, Mr. Gaiman could connect with those fans who felt drawn to his characters.

And, he’s right ~ you never know how something will end until you begin.  You have to find the courage to do what you feel is right.  Use your knowledge; your gut instincts; and every ounce of energy you have to complete what is important to you.  Pride can be found in works accomplished, not totally on feelings of others.

I enjoyed reading The Graveyard Book, but now have a greater appreciation for Neil Gaiman; the content of the book; and the reasons why it was written.


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The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, Neil and Dave McKean.  The Graveyard Book.  (2008). New York:  Harper Collins Publishers.

Summary:     Chapters 1 through 5

This book begins with a murder scene.  For a reason unknown to us, as readers, the family is cruelly stabbed at the hands of a man only known as “Jack”.  He works to make sure every detail is covered, only to find out that the youngest child has escaped his grasp.  The toddler walks easily out of the house and into the cool night air.  When “Jack” realizes that he is gone, he immediately and frantically searches for him.  The boy strays into a nearby graveyard and into the concerned arms of a long-gone couple named Mr. and Mrs. Owens.  Somehow, Mrs. Owens knows he is in trouble and works to protect him.  The visions of the boy’s parents appear to Mr. and Mrs. Owens, asking them to take care of the boy.  As “Jack” traces the toddler into the graveyard, the boy disappears into the care of Mr. and Mrs. Owens.  With the support of the others residing in the graveyard, Mrs. Owens vows to care for the boy and names him “Nobody Owens” (p. 25).

Nobody, or “Bod” as they call him, grows up to learn and live within the confines of the graveyard.  He has a guardian, known as Silas, who helps bring Bod food from outside.  There is not much known about Silas, as he admits that he does not belong to either world, the dead or the living.  He is able to reside in the graveyard, but can also weave his way throughout the town to acquire the things that Bod needs as a living child.  There is a young girl, like Bod, named Scarlett, who ventures into the graveyard to play.  She never imagines finding a real friend there, but quickly takes to Bod.  She enjoys being with this unusual boy and the adventures that he takes.  Her parents did not fear the boy “Bod”, as they believed he was a harmless imaginary friend.  Only when Scarlett insists on saying goodbye to Bod that they actually feel differently about his presence (p. 60).

There are many curiosities found within the graveyard.  Bod has been given his boundaries, not only by Mrs. And Mrs. Owens, but by Silas as well.  Bod works hard to please Silas, feeling that he always has information that proves helpful to Bod as a living being.  He doesn’t want to ruin the confidence that Silas has placed in him.  Once, Bod defies the rules given to him and discovers the underworld of ghouls, called Ghulheim (p. 81).  This underworld is like no other and the ghouls convince Bod into joining them and they take him so far he doesn’t know how he will get back.  Finally, a ghastly wolf-type creature rescues him and takes him back.  This creature actually turns out to be his teacher, Mrs. Lupescu.  She reminded me of the animagus creatures of the Harry Potter series.  Professor Lupin, of Hogwarts, could manipulate his body into the form of a werewolf.  Mrs. Lupescu could, as well, become a similar creature, part of a group called the “hounds of God”.

Within another restricted area of the graveyard, Bod meets a witch named Liza Hempstock (p. 109).  Liza is an interesting person.  I imagined that she lived sometime during theSalemwitch trials, because she was accused of crimes that seemed so silly.  She placed a curse on her accusers (and murderers) which came true.  All that helped to kill her died of a deadly plague.  Liza was concerned, and somewhat hurt, that she had been buried without a proper headstone.  When Bod leaves the graveyard to barter with a pawn shop owner, Liza is the one who follows him and rescues him.  The pawn shop owner has contact information for the man named “Jack” and thinks that Bod is the boy “Jack” has been looking for, for these last 10 years.  Liza teaches Bod how to “Fade” (as the dead do) so he can move easily in and out of rooms (p. 132).  Bod ends up making a headstone for Liza from a paperweight he takes from the pawn shop.  Liza is touched by Bod’s gesture.

Chapter 5 is different from the others.  I wonder if it’s not a dream that Bod has.  He sees everyone in the graveyard cleaning up for a special celebration.  However, when he begins asking for details about this celebration, no one will answer his questions.  Silas does bring him real clothes that fit him since winter is coming and Bod is now older.  Bod wanders into the town to find everyone wearing special white blossoms from a winter flower.  Tradition states that everyone in town wear this blossom in celebration.  When Bod follows the music into the center square, he finds that the dead invite the living in a special dance called the “Danse Macabray”.  They all dance together, for time unknown, and Bod gets a special dance with “The Lady in Grey”.  Bod is fascinated by the Lady’s horse and comments on him. The Lady makes a comment to Bod that “one day everyone will have their chance to ride my horse” (p. 161).  I think that “The Lady in Grey” is the mistress of death ~ the one who carries the living from their world into the world of the dead.  She also appeared when Bod first came to the graveyard (p. 30). I think it was to escort Bod’s parents and sister.  When Bod wakes up, he tries to talk to everyone about his experience.  However, no one seems to know what happened and will not talk with him about the dance.  Silas seems especially concerned because Bod knows about the dance and The Lady.

The man named “Jack” still searches for Bod.  He is being pressured by others who feel that Bod’s existence somehow compromises something important.  He vows to find Bod and “finish the business he started” (p. 169).

I keep wondering . . . is Jack a government official?  Or a member of the mob?










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The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, Neil and Dave McKean.  The Graveyard Book.  (2008). New York:  Harper Collins Publishers.

Summary:     Chapters 6 through 8


I can’t believe it!  I was caught in the mystery right along with Bod and Scarlett! 

I was so glad that Scarlett returned to the City and to see Bod.  She was one of the only humans with which Bod had developed a positive relationship. 

And, she was so willing to help him solve the mystery behind the murder of his parents.  The man Jack (Frost) was so sly.  I truly believed he was a meek character, just there to help.  Just a mere historian wandering the graveyards seeking to give justice to those whose death had been forgotten.  He had truly thought out his plan ~ to move into Bod’s original home; to find this character to portray; to watch Scarlett and Bod together; and to even become friends with Scarlett and her mother!  Such thought and evil planning!  I believed in Mr. Frost right up until he pulled the knife from the floorboard (p. 255).  I couldn’t believe it!  I had expected a note; an official document; an incriminating picture; something ~ but not the knife ~ the man “Jack” had finally caught him! 

However, Bod was just as clever.  He used all of the knowledge taught him by those who reared him within the graveyard.  As we find out, the man “Jack” is just one of many “Jacks” ~ the revered group of “Jacks of All Trades”.  I knew something was different about the men who came to the door of33 Dunstan Road.  All of the men had names like “Dandy”; “Nimble”; and “Tar”.  I wasn’t quite sure how everything fit together.  Through Bod’s birth, and his abilities to interact between the living and the dead, the organization of “Jacks” was in danger.  Their “magic” was compromised by having Bod, and his abilities, alive (p. 271). 

Bod used what he had learned from his family within the graveyard to trap and harm the “Jacks” who were trying to kill him.  The first Jack, trying to catch Bod, fell into a deep crypt, breaking his ankle.  Three of the other Jacks were tricked into the ghoul-gate.  And, the last Jack, the one who had killed Bod’s family received the worst punishment of all (I think).  He was led into the crypt where the Sleer guarded treasure for their master ~ master that the Sleer had waited on for centuries.  Bod led Jack to think that he could become the Sleer’s master and receive all the riches it guarded.  Once Jack admitted that “yes, obviously I am it new master”, the Sleer engulfed him in its snake-like coils (p. 284).  He was led, unmercifully, into an unknown, non-living world.

I was sorry to hear about Ms. Lupescu’s dying.  She and Silas had been working to rid the world of all of the “Jacks” so others did not have to suffer as the Dorian family suffered.  I still can’t quite describe what Silas was, being that he was not living and not dead.  I’m just glad that he agreed to be a guardian to Bod and he kept that agreement.  I was a little sad, though, when Bod left the graveyard, especially when he told his mother goodbye.

“He tried to put his arms around his mother then, as he had when he was a child, although he might as well have been trying to hold mist, for he was alone on the path.  He took a step forward, through the gate that took him out of the graveyard (p. 307).

Good luck, Bod!


Similar Books for Younger Children:

Using the “Book Wizard” from Scholastic, I found about 6 books that would be good to read aloud to younger students. 

These are the ones I thought would be interesting:

Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips by Margaret Thornton

            ABaileySchoolKids Mystery

            Grade Level:  3.9


The Case of the Graveyard Ghost by Mildred Torrey

            Doyle and Fossey, Scientific Detectives

            Grade Level:  3.9


The Case of the Gasping Garbage by Mildred Torrey

            Doyle and Fossey, Scientific Detectives

            Grade Level:  3.6


It’s Halloween, ‘Fraidy Mouse by Geronimo Stilton

            Grade Level:  2.0


Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka

            (many books in this series)

            Grade Level:  4.3


Ghost Tale for Christmas Time by Mary Pope Osbourne

            A Merlin Mission from the Magic Tree House Series

            Grade Level:  5.0


Listening to Neil Gaiman read from The Graveyard Book:

I liked this website and plan to spend time exploring it more!

I listened to chapters 1 and 5 as Neil read them to captivated audiences.  While reading chapter 1, Mr. Gaiman read slow enough for his listeners to fully understand the story.  Being a visual learner, I would have a difficult time making sense of a story like this, if I had not been able to read it first.  Although, Mr. Gaiman took his time; used expressive gestures to emphasize the language in the book; and paused for those words to take affect on the listeners.  He read the same type of way during chapter 5.  I thought this chapter was the most vivid of all of them because the world of the living joined with the world of the dead.  It’s one of those chapters that you read and wonder:  is it real?  Did this really happen or did Bod just really want it to happen? 

I would have liked to seen Mr. Gaiman sitting comfortably in a cushy chair reading to the audience.  Standing behind a podium with a microphone was not so appealing to me.  I would have preferred him settling down, shoes off, and sitting with legs crossed engrossed in his story.  Then, I could probably become more focused on what he is saying instead of what is around him.  But, then again, that’s me.  Older students; auditory learners; and those tuned into technology; may prefer hearing the story read rather than reading it themselves.  I’m just “old school” ~ I want the book in MY hands!












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Revisiting Read Aloud: Strategies that Encourage Student Engagement with Text

Morrison, Vanessa and Lisa Wieodarczyk.  2009. Revisiting Read-Aloud, Instructional Strategies That Encourage Students’ Engagement with Texts. International Reading Association.  The Reading Teacher.  Volume 63, Number 2.

In this article, reading is described as a “transactional process”.  “The reader must transact with the text to make meaning.  The listener must understand; make connections to; and socially interact with the text.  Learning is a social activity, it is important for us to allow social collaboration as part of our instructional practice” (p. 111).  In this case, the reader and the learner are one in the same person.  We, as teachers, have to remember, in our planning, to include enough time for students to discuss what has been read.  Discuss, in their own way.  “Discuss” is one of those important words in our school (as I assume many others).  Younger learners will have to have practice in using discussion as an effective tool for reading comprehension.  I have thought about using reading partners in scenarios of discussion.  One idea I had came from something I had read several months ago.  For my class, I could use a “Story Jar” that contained pictures of various parts from the text we just read. Readingpartners would draw one of these pictures from the “Story Jar” and use the picture to discuss:  a) where in the story this picture could be found; b) why the picture is important to the story; and c) who was a part of this picture.  After they have had ample time (probably multiple sessions), the reading partners can then present their pictures and explanations to the class as a whole.  It would be like having certain pieces that fit together to make a larger puzzle.  It wouldn’t necessarily have to be anything elaborate, but just enough to know that the students have an understanding of all elements of that story.  Some teachers may consider having students discuss as a non-learning activity.  However, research sources have proven that children actually learn more from each other than they do from us.  “Numerous studies claim that peer interactive learning is conducive and perhaps essential to cognitive development.  Students learn more through peer collaborative learning processes compared with learning in isolation or teacher-dominated instruction” (p. 111).  I, myself, have found that share partners are an effective means of helping students to understand a particular concept.  Just merely repeating a fact can help attach it to memory.  Teachers will just need to set guidelines and monitor the discussion sessions.

With reading, motivation equals engagement.  “During read-aloud, the reader incorporates variations in pitch; tone; pace; volume; pauses; eye contact; questions; and comments to produce a fluent and enjoyable delivery” (p. 111).  For those children who have had limited experiences with reading and being read to, the teacher needs to plan especially for those moments.  A teacher can gauge interest from student posture; attention; and eye contact.  One of my four students who have had little experience with reading, will sit still with his eyes fixated on me when we read one of the adventures of our favorite characters, Jack and Annie, from the Magic Tree House series.  I know I have him then!  I love that feeling!  I think it helps too, when you make the students part of the reading.  For instance, I have taught my students to “sigh” and “gasp” during our Jack and Annie stories.  Jack “sighs” a lot because Annie is always acting before she thinks.  And, they often “gasp” because something amazing always happens.  It’s so funny for me to hear them as I read those words!  That way, I know they are listening and are trying to make connections with the feelings of the characters.  And, it takes time to build motivation.  At first, young children are not prepared to sit through a long chapter or story.  They have to start with smaller portions; begin to like the characters; understand the plots; and wish that they could do the things that the characters get to do.  When they reach that point, they are motivated to find out more!

Reading aloud to children has so many benefits.  “Reading aloud is the single most important activity to build knowledge for successful reading” (p. 111).  The definition contained within this article was more appealing to me than in the previous one I read.  “Reading aloud to children builds and supports their listening and speaking abilities and enhances their overall language development.  Students develop a rich language base and came to understand the power of words by listening to stories; reading stories; and responding to stories through engagement activities” (p. 111).  To understand the power of words ~ I love that!  Sometimes we forget how powerful words can really be.  “Reading is powerful.  It creates compassion, moves us to action, transports us to different places, and even transforms us” (Moss and Young, p. 1).

In order for students to find the “power of words”, “it is necessary to teach them highly effective literacy strategies to use before, during, and after listening to a text” (p. 112).  One of these four strategies mentioned in the article is the use of “Alphaboxes”.  Alphaboxes can be used with almost any grade level and works well with content area reading.  Alphaboxes can be used to predict situations before reading and then be compared to actual events after reading.  Alphaboxes actually go “beyond simple recall to use information learned from text” (p. 112).  I used Alphaboxes last year during a project for RE 5130.  Dr. Green had asked us to do a “Literacy through Photography” project, where pictures were turned into writing.  For my project, I assigned each child a writing partner.  My assistant and I taught the children how to take pictures and then use those pictures to write about their friend.  The Alphaboxes were used to write words to describe that friend.  Using the Alphaboxes actually went better than I expected.  I have not found the chance to use them yet this year, but would if I have the need.

Another strategy to comprehend what is being read is to use prior knowledge or schema.  “Readingis an active process, whereby readers construct new ideas and concepts based on their prior knowledge.  Learning takes place when students make connections to what they are reading” (p. 113).   There are three types of connections that can be made:  1) text to self; 2) text to text; and 3) text to world.  Students learn them in that order and will make stronger connections when the teacher takes time to model each one.  For example, “students are making text to self connections when they are reminded of something that happened to them the way that it happened in the story” (p. 114).  The teacher must use that point in the story to allow time for students to think about those moments.  If one student has had a similar moment, he/she will be anxious to find out how the character reacted and compare each situation.  Teacher may use two books to make text to text connections.  These books may be read multiple times for those connections to be found.  Students can learn more about the text to world connection in making a chart about events from the book and those that have happened recently in their neighborhood, school, or community (p. 114).  I found Figure 2 to be helpful in defining each type.  In text to self, children are allowed to express their feelings about the character and the story.  They use what they know about these situations to better understand the story.  In text to text, students, with guidance from the teacher, find similarities between stories containing similar subjects.  In text to world, students use the story to generally define how it affects others living around them.

The last strategy mentioned in the “discussion web”.  “The discussion web is an excellent activity to promote engagement with text because it allows for the examination of various points of view within a social setting.  This strategy allows for students to work collaboratively in small groups and promotes the opportunity for all voices to be heard.  It enriches thinking; listening; talking; reading; writing; viewing; and visually representing abilities of the students” (p. 115).  I liked the idea of the discussion web best and actually should have saved my “Story Jar” idea for this section.  I think that the “Story Jar” could provide a time for discussion where each partner gets a chance to share his/her ideas; debate or defend any ideas; find a consensus; and share with the entire class.  I like this strategy a lot.

This article was a little more intricate than the first in that it took the time to:  provide a great definition for reading aloud; examined the benefits; provided a rationale; and provided three detailed strategies for using read aloud as an effective tool for teaching reading and for motivating our students to read.


Moss, Barbara and Terrell Young.  2010.  Creating Lifelong Readers Through Independent Reading. Newark,DE:  International Reading Association.




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I Broke My Trunk!

Willems, Mo.  (2011)  I Broke My Trunk! 

New York:  Hyperion Books for Children.

This book is too cute!  The elephant, Gerald, breaks his trunk.  He finds his friend, Piggie, to tell him about it.  Piggie is surprised to see his elephant friend with his broken appendage.  He asked elephant to tell him the story.  Elephant begins by telling him about his day.  Gerald includes every detail about his morning, but nothing about his story tells WHY or HOW his trunk got broken.  I love it on page 45 when Piggie asks, yet again, “HOW DID YOU BREAK YOUR TRUNK?”  We’ve all been a part of stories like this where we feel like we will never make it to the ending.  Piggie was truly frustrated!  In the end, we find that Gerald did not break his trunk from all of the work/play he had done that morning.  And, Piggie ends up breaking his snout in the same way that Gerald broke his trunk.

I read this book to my class.  Since it was fairly short, I read it during the first part of our language arts block.

They seemed to really like the book!  I was worried that they may have trouble keeping up with the dialogue and conversation.  Since it doesn’t have things like, “Gerald said”, or “Piggie thought”, I thought they may not be able to follow the story.  But, they did, with no problems.  I did have to explain the difference between and “thought bubble” and a “talk bubble”.  I had them make predictions about how Gerald broke his trunk, and like me (and Piggie), they became anxious to know what really happened.  They laughed when Piggie found the same fate as Gerald!



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