Maximizing the Effectiveness of Reading Aloud

Maximizing the Effectiveness of Reading Aloud

Lane, Holly B. and Tyran L. Wright.  2007.  The Reading Teacher.

Volume 50, Number 7.

We all know that reading aloud to children is vitally important to their language growth.  Or do we?  How can “we” be further defined?  Do all parents know this?  I would have made this statement, and fully agreed with it, until this year.  In my utopia, all children are read a bedtime story each night.  They hear the beauty of the language as it is read to them by their loving parents.  They learn new words by asking questions about the stories.  They begin reading early, with a lift and lilt to their voices as they read the lines of each character.  As I said, this is my utopia, not reality.  I found that out earlier this school year.  Of the 22 students that entered my classroom this year, I was able to detect that at least 4 of them had never had the pleasure of hearing a story being read to them.  Using the observation skills we develop as teachers, I noticed that these children, although beautiful; healthy; and independent (in their own way) had limited vocabulary; shorter attention spans; and scored lower in their initial reading assessments.  They did not know letters of the alphabet; could not find the title on the front of the book; could not adequately use picture clues; and did not know in which direction to begin to read.  One precious child even told me that the name of this letter “L” is LM, as in LMNOP ~ true story!

“The most frequently cited barriers to reading aloud are lack of time and limited access to children’s books.  Children may begin school with as little as 25 hours or as much as 1,500 hours of read aloud experiences” (p. 668).  Being a busy parent myself I do understand how reading can be given “a back seat” to other things in life.  Like, working; cooking; doing laundry; homework; sleeping; and the list can go on and on.   Not to mention single parent households with young children; no family support; and no transportation.  Finding a good book to read is not high on the list of priorities in daily survival.  As was the case with these 4 children.

So, according to the article, we teachers have to utilize our classroom time efficiently to include effective time for reading aloud to students.  Especially for those who have missed out on these opportunities previously.  “Teachers should consider a) the amount of time; b) the choice of text; c) the method of reading aloud; and d) the fit of the read aloud into the curriculum” (p. 669).

Sometimes, creating an area for reading can be a challenge.  Teachers have to be able find a suitable space for children to sit comfortably; see the teacher and the book; and have limited distractions.

Using our assigned time for literacy should include enough time and quality time for reading aloud.  We need to thoroughly check the list of skills that are being built during this time.  Research and time should be spent selecting a book that will not only build upon these skills, but be interesting to the students as well.  Choice, in itself, can be difficult.  There are many books that will teach skills, but may not always be fun so that students will listen and interact with the book.  “Books should be well written, with engaging characters, and plots that offer the teacher many opportunities to model fluent and expressive reading are the best choices” (p. 669).  The students should be able to make connections with each book and be able to work toward follow-up activities.

One method of reading aloud, to enhance literacy skills, is “dialogic reading”.  “Dialogic reading provides a simple structure for making teacher-child/parent-child interactions more productive.  Children are encouraged to be active learners; are challenged one step above their reading level; and are provided immediate feedback for their efforts” (p. 670).  In other words, teachers use the dialog of the book to create questions and search for understanding.  The children are asked questions that make them think further than just hearing the words being read.  Teachers asked open-ended questions using the “what; who; why; where; and how” types of questions are effective with this method.  After I read about this method, I realize that I do use it ~ even though I didn’t attach a formal name to it.  I use it in the form of a “story cube”.  My super-creative assistant found a pattern and created our story cube.  She has written the “what-why-who-where-how” on 5 of the sides and on the 6th we have a ?.  For the ? side, I can ask any question that I want about the book we just read.  I especially love the ? side and the children try their best to roll the cube onto the ?.  And, usually, they can answer questions from each side with little or no prompting.  I love our story cube!

The next method described was “text talk”.  “Text talk is a read-aloud strategy that focuses on vocabulary development” (p. 670).  With text talk, I can imagine that reading the book would involve more than just one session.  In our Harcourt Reading Series, it does suggest that we read each book multiple times for referencing and building certain skills.  The teacher would need to do his/her research before beginning text-talk.  He/She would read the book; find words to define and use; and create ways to use those words in every day experiences.  The words to be taught would “need to have some connection to what students know; can be explained using their words; and will be useful and interesting” (p. 671).  I have found, that with younger students, defining a new word and using hand gestures, helps them to remember the new word better ~ motor memory, I think it’s called.  For example, one of our important words is “review”.  To “review” something, we say the word; move our hands out to pull in; and define “review” as grabbing something we’ve talked about before and talk about it again.  Not that my example is perfect, but it works for me!  The most important, and probably most difficult, skill for text talk is the preparation:  finding the appropriate words; creating the definition; and using the words in ways that children can connect and remember them.

The last method of read aloud described in the article is “print referencing”.  In print referencing, the teacher actually uses parts of the book to teach the story.  “Print referencing refers to the verbal and non-verbal cues such as tracking print; pointing to pictures; and using important aspects of the print, its functions and features.  The point is to increase the focus on language; increase the interest in print; and allow children to find written language as important” (p. 672).   Table 4 on page 673 gave some good examples of how teachers can use the print to draw the student’s attention to the book being read.  We use these same examples in an initial and final assessment with our kindergarteners.  The important features of a book are the title; cover; reading direction; words; sentences; and punctuation.  Using this assessment at the beginning of the year, gives us a good idea of just how much knowledge a child has about books.  Usually, if a child has been read to, he/she can answer all of those questions.  Their knowledge, or lack of, sets the pattern for instruction.

I loved that the article labeled reading aloud as “a treasured time together” (p. 673).  This “treasured time” can be shared not only between teacher and child, but parent and child as well.  Teachers can keep parents informed of what types of books are being read in the classroom so they may be expanded at home.  Our goals of reading aloud should be to:  create a positive attitude for reading; increase vocabulary; increase listening comprehension; and serve as motivation for children to read independently.  For those reluctant parents, hopefully the interest of their child will spark their interest in reading as well.  The teacher can provide materials for the child to read at home; send information about upcoming library events or book fairs; and offer “reading nights” where parents can learn how to better interact with a book and with their child.


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My Own “Wonder Box”

Creating this special box did not take long for me.  Really, I already had two boxes full of items that brought distinctive memories for me.  You see, I am a bit of a “pack rat”.   I keep anything and everything, because I have this feeling that one day  I may need that object for something.  I enjoyed spending a rainy Saturday digging through these boxes; in my closet; and under my bed for the most memorable objects that I could place inside this “wonder box”. 


The first things that you may notice are my books of Pippi Longstocking and her many adventures.  As a little girl, I loved Pippi.  My grandmother would read to me from Pippi and tell me that I looked just like her.  “Her hair, the color of a carrot, was braided in two tight braids that stuck straight out.  Her nose was the shape of a very small potato and was dotted all over with freckles” (Lindgren, p. 16).  She had even underlined the sentences that described Pippi on this page and had written an inscription.  She even made me my very own Pippi doll!  I remember loving that doll and took great care of her ~ I’ve now had her for 36 years!


The second thing you probably notice is the sketch of an apple that my grandfather drew.  He was an oil painter and would draw sketches before he painted.  He would paint anything, but mostly painted beaches; seascapes; and ocean waves.  Growing up on the beaches of Baltimore and spending 21 years in the navy, the ocean was one of the loves of his life.  When he passed away 3 years ago, my grandmother gave me his sketch book; his paints; and some canvases.  I would like to think that my artistic abilities came from him.

As I look deeper into the box, I find an ornament that I bought while visitingSt. Louis,Missouri.  It was the first trip that I had taken away from my oldest son, Avery.  He was only 3 at the time and I was pregnant with my second.  I was so sick during that trip and was not able to go up into the Arch!  So, I bought the ornament to remind me.

I have a small,ceramic cup from Denver,Colorado.  I spent a week there with my friend, Stephanie.  Believe it or not, we were there on business!  But, it didn’t feel like it!  We couldn’t believe it the heat, 110 degrees in the city!  We took one day off from our meetings and took a tour to the Rocky Mountain State Park, where it was snowing!

There is a note card, labeled “Petunia”, that rests in the back of my box.  That card was given to me by the group of teachers from the English Department at Caldwell Community College.   I worked there, for those teachers, while I worked on my AA degree.  They were so wonderful!  They gave me that card, along with money, as I left on a field trip to the Rameses Exhibit in Charlotte for one of my history classes.  I was not expecting such a treat and am still moved by it today. 

One of the next things I put in my box was 2 four-leaf clovers.  I have always loved finding 4-leaf clovers and have always been good at it!  To this day, I can look down, among a group of clovers, and find the ones that have 4-leaves.  My brother and I would have contests as kids to see who could get the most.  He never got any!  I used to think that finding clovers was the only talent that God allowed me. But, now that I’ve been in the classroom, I know that He gave me the talent of teaching.  I am so thankful that I’ve found my purpose in life!  Seeing a 4-leaf clover reminds me of that talent!

Of course, I have the first letter that my husband ever wrote to me!  I have all of the letters; notes; etc. that he wrote.  He has always been the romantic one and dazzled me with his writing.  “I love you in so many ways and I never want to know how it feels to be without you”.  How could I say “no” to that?!  As of Saturday, we have been married 22 years!

Now, I did not include much relating to my children, because they have a “wonder box” of their own.  I have saved each article relating to their conception; birth; and “firsts” in everything.  I told you that I was a “pack rat”!

I did put in the first bracelet that Avery made for me when he was in kindergarten.  I put in the medal that Anderson got when he graduated from kindergarten.  He had a full Mohawk haircut on that day!

And, last, but certainly not least, I found a lapel pin of a 1976 Trans-Am.  That was my very first car and the envy of all of my friends!  My Dad was a proud as I was!

I could have placed many more objects in my “wonder box”, but these were the ones that meant the most to me.  One can accumulate a lot of “stuff” even if it’s meaningful “stuff” in 42 years! 


Lindgren, Astrid.  (1950).  Pippi Longstocking.  New York, NY:  The Viking Press.






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What an appropriate name for this book!  Not only does it contain a book, entitled Wonderstruck, that leads Ben on his journey to find his father, but one feels “wonderstruck” after reading it.  As you read, you ask so many questions; marvel at the beautiful drawings; and cheer as Ben and Rose find each other. 

It took me about 4 ½ hours to read.  Reading this book felt a little like cheating.  For a book of its volume, one would think days upon days would be needed to read it.  But, it only took a few hours!  It helps that most of Rose’s story is told through pictures ~ beautiful pencil and charcoal drawings.  That’s the part that felt like cheating.  We were “reading” through the pictures, but it didn’t feel like it.

This book is like no other that I have ever read and I’m glad to have the opportunity.  The style is so unique in that it does tell a story from two different voices, but the stories meet; match; overlap; and eventually become just one story.  Enough hints are given about each one that you, as reader, can’t help but keep turning pages! 

As I was reading the book, I was reminded of two of my favorite movies:  “Elf” and “Night At the Museum”, although Ben had to make his journey as a non-hearing person.  Ben’s accident, in losing the hearing of his good ear, was somewhat coincidental, or maybe not.  The more I think about this, I wonder if the author wanted Ben to experience his grandparents’ deficiency so he could relate more to their world.  To use more of his other senses to remember; to examine; and to recreate the story of his mom and dad from the memories he held. 

The “wonder box” that Ben kept was especially poignant.  Every piece was attached to a special memory.  And, after meeting his grandmother, Rose, he found that she, too, had kept her own special “wonder box”.  But, hers was fashioned on a much grander scale, the “Pandora” exhibit ofNew Yorkand all of its unique parts.  She had hidden special pieces of Daniel’s life in each part.  Only she, her husband, and now Ben, knew that those pieces existed within Pandora.  Visitors to the museum long ago had never known!  How great is that!  Rose had been collecting “wonders” even in childhood as she kept a special scrapbook about her movie star mother. 

Finding the significance of the wolves was startling.  Ben found that the same wolves of his dreams were real drawings from his father!  How lucky he was to find a friend in Jamie, whose father worked at the same museum!  Jamie was able to take Ben to unknown regions of the museum where Ben was able to find valuable information that linked him to his father.  But, the bookmark became the most vital part of his search.  I think that Ben just may now include that bookmark as part of his “wonder box”!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to create our own “wonder box”.  I’ll be working on it all weekend!

Making Classroom Connections:

Without knowing that it would be part of an assignment, I actually did give my students a glimpse inside of Wonderstruck.  There has been one quote, from our very first reading, that has stayed with me:  “Make sure that you model your passion for literacy for your students.  Be excited about what you are reading.  Share with them and ask them to share with you” (Powell-Brown, p. 287).  So, now, as a practice, I have been showing my students what I’m reading, whether it’s for class or not.  I was very excited to begin reading Wonderstruck and wanted to share with them.  Part of my excitement was the challenge of how long it would take to read.  I took the book to school on Friday.  Early that morning, I caught my assistant looking at the book on my desk and asked her, “DO NOT, read over it yet!  I want to show it to the students, and I want you to join us then”.  “Not even the introduction?” she asked.  She looked at me rather strangely, but complied. 

When it was time, I asked my assistant to join us on the mat.  I showed the children the book, from all angles.  Of course, they gasped in amazement at its size.  I read the title to them and asked a few of them to predict what they thought the book would be about.  Most of them gave answers relating to a storm or lightening.  I told them that I had not read the book, and could not tell them the story, but wanted to show them the opening pictures.  I loved the beautiful drawings of the wolves and how the perspective changed from the wolves being far away to getting closer and closer and closer until you were looking into the pupil of one eye.  They were as fascinated as I had been when I first saw those pictures! 

I’m sure that my students would love hearing this story.  They could make sense of the pictures and I would like to hear their responses as they interpret them.  I think they could envision the parts of the museum and Ben’s journey into the city.  With help, and lots of discussion, I think they would be able to make the connections that Ben had to make about his family.  I could see us spending several weeks on this story, but it would be interesting to hear their predictions; their feelings about Ben and those around him; and their ideas about Ben’s visit inside the museum.

Powell-Brown, Ann.  (2004).  Can You Be A Teacher of Literacy If You Don’t Love to Read?  Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, December 2003/January 2004.


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When I first thought about the topic of independent reading, I thought that it was not a skill that I would find in my kindergarten classroom ~ a subject that would not apply to me.  My job is to teach them to decode sounds and then use those sounds to read words.  By mid-year, most of them can decode simple words and read some sight words, but read independently?  Is that possible?  But, then I read our textbook.  And, some interesting points were made, even about younger readers.  I think that I actually said “Well, how about that!” when I read page 3:  “Independent reading is not a substitute for direct instruction in basic skills, but a critical support for students beginning to read”.  “Independent reading provides the reinforcement of skills that all students need to be the best readers they can be”.  Isn’t the whole purpose of reading to comprehend the story?  To make sense of the words you’re reading?  Of course, I knew that, but such emphasis has been placed on phonemic awareness recently, that actual reading and comprehending is expected later.  (I feel that sometimes we are DIBELed to death!) 


The critical part would be to begin early teaching those reading strategies for interpreting the text.  That’s one reason why I requested, in my Donors Choose project, to have multiple copies of the same stories.  I can use those stories to monitor their accuracy and comprehension.  I guess that I was not giving enough credit to my students.  They are really smart and eager to learn ~ that’s why I teach the younger grades!  I recently started working with my higher readers and enrolled them into the AR program.  Now, 12 of my 21 students are working in AR!  They absolutely love choosing their own book from my meager collection; reading it for their parents; reading it again for me; then taking an AR test!  They don’t let me forget when it’s reading time and get really disappointed if our schedule is changed or interrupted!    And, you have to love their enthusiasm!  According to our textbook, we are taking part in independent reading!

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Independent Reading: What It Is and How to Plan

“Readingis powerful.  It creates compassion, moves us to action; transports us to other worlds, and sometimes transforms us.  It affords the opportunity to get lost in a book ~ to be so engaged that we lose track of time, of place, and of everything but the power of text” (Moss and Young, p. 1).

I, personally, love this feeling ~ of “getting lost” while reading a book.  To literally be taken into another world or another time just through the power of imagination driven by words on a page. Reading independently brings this power to life. 

Reading independently or silently to oneself, should be the main goal of any structured reading program.  One reads to gain information; to improve upon a particular skill; and to find enjoyment in certain topics.  “Most of us spend more time reading silently than we do orally.  We read newspapers; recipes; directions; books; magazines; and letters silently every day of our lives.  Most of the thoughtful reading done by adults, and children, is silent reading” (Stoodt, p. 264). 

However, reading independently does not develop on its own.  Independencein reading comes with a strong foundation of basic reading skills and essential knowledge. Once established, students must be motivated to read silently.  Teachers can help create this motivation by:  giving students adequate time to read; reading aloud regularly to students; giving incentives for reading; and being a positive model for engaged, enthusiastic reading (Moss and Young, p. 19).  “Interest in literature precedes appreciation.  Interest develops as a result of one’s opportunities with reading a variety of materials and through listening to interesting stories” (Stoodt, p. 323).

Good books give children much of the motivation and the wherewithal to learn to read and models that show them how to write.  Good books offer children delight; mystery; charm; an experience of awe; and companionship (Temple, Martinez, Yokota, and Naylor).

Students who read exciting and enjoyable materials read for a longer period of time.  Through reading, students build a greater base of vocabulary words.  “The bulk of vocabulary growth during a child’s lifetime occurs through language exposure, not direct teaching” (Moss and Young, p. 12). 

There is evidence that shows independent reading is probably the major source of vocabulary acquisition beyond the beginning stages of learning to read.  Research shows that students who read widely can learn the meanings of thousands of new words each year (Houghton Mifflin).  The typical vocabulary program teaches an average of 700 words per year, the remaining 2,300 words students need must be gained through incidental reading (Moss and Young, p. 12).

A student’s success in reading is evaluated by the ability and extent of understanding the content that has been read.  Not only does a child need to understand the meanings of the words he has read; but the author’s intent of the story as well.  “Reading comprehension is the essence of the reading process.  Comprehension and learning are one in the same.  New experiences are combined with what the child already knows ~ he is ‘making sense of the world’.  We comprehend by relating the unfamiliar to the already known” (Stoodt, p. 162).  Only when reading becomes more than words, sounds, and letters does the reading process take on meaning (Alexander, p. 192).    

In order to create meaning from stories being read, children do have to extend the connection between what they know and what information is being presented within their reading.  Readingindependently builds background knowledge or schema.  Reading a variety of materials exposes students to diverse topics in which they can use in future readings.  Research findings indicate that a student’s reading ability is dramatically influenced by the amount of schema they have about that topic (Houghton Mifflin).  A schema is the way knowledge is organized and structured by the mind.  Schemata (plural) become internal explanations of events, objects, or situations (Alexander, p. 157).  When reading, a child uses what he knows to transform abstract thoughts into concrete objects.  “Developing students’ domain knowledge through early independent reading experiences help younger students create schemata for topics they will find increasingly demanding in upper grade-level texts” (Moss and Young, p. 12).  The extensiveness of a child’s schemata will influence what points of the story may be understood or recalled.  Schemata enable the reader to relate the content to their previous experiences and knowledge (Stoodt, p. 186).

Once a child has been inspired to read stimulating materials through which he has increased his vocabulary and understanding, his growth in reading achievement will improve.  Research clearly shows that the reading of meaningful, connected text results in improved reading achievement (Houghton Mifflin).  “Students who engaged in independent reading did much better on standardized reading tests than students who only had reading instruction” (Moss and Young, p. 15).  “A substantial emphasis should be placed on engaged, independent reading to learn.  All reading tests require speed, fluency, and comprehension.  These can only be achieved through motivated; extended; and engaged reading” (Moss and Young, p. 16). 

To summarize this portion, reading independently has five main benefits.  First, children develop an interest in books and a motivation to read after being read to; watching others engaged in reading; and being offered stimulating materials.  Second, children acquire a greater knowledge of new words through reading.  Third, if a child is interested in reading and he has an understanding of the ideas being presented, then he is learning.  Fourth, reading independently builds a background knowledge that will connect the known to the unknown, creating a better understanding.  And, fifth, a child who reads for pleasure reads more often.  More reading leads to more knowledge.  A greater knowledge base will allow for higher reading achievement scores.

 Incorporating Independent Reading into the Daily Schedule:

Teachers face the challenge of incorporating the practice of independent reading into their already strict daily schedule.  “Independent reading is just one component of a quality reading program, but it is a critical one ~ not a substitute for direct instruction of basic skills, but a critical support for students learning to read as well as reading to learn” (Moss and Young, p. 3).  One way to include independent, daily reading practice is through the use of literacy stations.  Before beginning, the teacher must be assured that the students have reached a level of reading readiness that will allow for independent practice.  After assessment, the teacher must teach new reading strategies by modeling for whole class; guide students in practice; provide time to use the new strategy; and allow for student application of the practice.  “We work with students to describe a new skill; model it; practice it; talk about the skill again; and repeat the practice until it becomes habit.  Repetition is the key to success in helping students develop good literacy habits and independence” (Boushey and Moser, p. 46).  Once the desired behaviors have been established, independent reading can take place within a literacy station.  Gail Boushey and Joan Moser developed a system of literacy stations known as “The Daily Five”.  They begin each new school year by setting guidelines for reading habits; behaviors; and routines that allow for students to engage in reading.  They have named their “Daily Five” stations as:  Read to Self; Read to Someone; Listen toReading; Work on Writing; and Word Work.  “Read to Self” involves a number of deliberate and planned actions throughout the day.  ‘Read to Self’ seems simple and basic, however, specific teaching techniques make ‘Read to Self’ a powerful tool for enhancing ALL literacy skills” (Boushey and Moser, p. 46). 

Creating the Space:

In order to be able to read freely, students need to have access to an attractive classroom library.  “A classroom library should be an inviting space; roomy; and well lit.  Some plants give life to the space.  Comfortable chairs invite you to sit down and look through a book.  Books are arranged by topic; author; or genre.  Many books are facing outward, their covers displayed, inviting you to look closer” (Diller, p. 30). 

In our kindergarten classroom, our library space is rather small and I’m not sure you could describe it as “inviting”.  We do have tubs of books that are sorted by subjects and authors and have been carefully labeled.  There are small, circular cushions to sit on, but children usually just sit on the carpeted floor.   Working within a fine arts school, with a hectic schedule, we are afforded very little time for reading independently. 

I would love to have at least ¼ of our classroom space specifically devoted to the library.  I can envision a rectangular area; with lush carpet; and fluffy, large pillows (about 5 of them).  I would prefer to have 5 different colors so I could assign each child a specific color when his turn comes to visit the library.  Bookshelves, at kid-level height, surround the area on three sides.  Stacking baskets fill the shelves with classroom sets (6 of each) of alluring books that the children often fight over.  Green plants are located on each corner giving a feeling of comfort and home.  Stuffed animals and puppets rest in large tubs on either side of the library space.  One shelf has been reserved for supplies such as:  sticky notes; drawing materials; bookmarks; and colored paper in various sizes.  Attractive posters, with celebrities reading, are located around the area. 

Creating the Collection:

To begin this project, of renovating our classroom library, I thought about the types of books that were needed.  I used an Interest Inventory to see what kinds of books my students would read.  I sent the Interest Inventory as a homework assignment, to be completed with the help of parents.  The results of the Interest Inventory showed that my students enjoyed animal stories; stories about famous people and athletes; funny stories about kids like them; and scary stories.  Since the Interest Inventory, I have been searching more for books that meet their tastes.  At present, I do not have any of these types except animal stories.  And, these are older copies, with out-dated information that have been “inherited” through the years from retiring teachers and/or parents.  To increase the volume of books in our collection, I have researched several websites that provide books, reasonably priced, within these interest areas.  I like;;;; and  I have read reviews of books on sites like; and  On blog pages like, one can read posts from teachers who have purchased and used books considered for use in the classroom and in the library area. Reading from these sites have caused a bit of excitement, I have a wish list already made!

Key Components of an Effective Independent Reading Program:

To make efficient use of our updated classroom library, the structure of our current literacy program would need to be updated as well.  I would schedule these 5 important components:  whole group introduction through “book talks”; interactive read-alouds; opportunities for reading; sharing; and teacher/student conferences.  “Providing time for the practice of reading skills through pleasure reading is a central focus of an independent reading model” (Moss and Young, p. 68).

As stated earlier, children need to be motivated to read.  “The 21st century child chooses from TV, the computer, video games, and movies on DVD.  Children have more choices for entertainment, and often books are not considered as entertaining” (Diller, p. 29).  Using the method of “book talks” can provide a way of eliciting a child’s excitement to read a particular book.  Teachers can use strategies such as:  cliffhangers; first sentences; grab bags; internet research; and ten questions to encourage their responses (Moss and Young, p. 70).  Once a particular type of book has been introduced, teachers should read the book, or a book within that same genre, aloud to the whole group.  Students should be encouraged to not only listen, but interact with the text being read.  For instance, teachers should gain student attention with open-ended questions; predictions; and character descriptions.  Then, students would be given ample time to read those books that interest them.  I want my students to ask, “Is it my turn yet to sit in the library”?  They would look longingly at the neat shelves of books with colorful displays and already have a book in mind to grab once there. Depending on the child’s reading strengths, I would allow him to either read the book by himself or pair him with a partner with similar abilities.  Together, the pair could participate in partner reading; echo reading; or choral reading.  That’s why, for my classroom, it would be important for me to have at least 4 copies of each book.  After reading time, I would allow each child to take that same book home to read with their parents/guardians.  We use a Reading Log that will be signed by parents; list the time spent reading; and draw a face 🙂 or 😦 to indicate how well the student liked his chosen book. 

The reading and reading log are considered as homework.  Each child would have an opportunity to create a project that summarizes their book of choice.  For example, he could create an art project; use puppets; or act out the story himself.  He would have a chance to share his project with his classmates.  My hope is that they would then want to read that same book next.  On the next day, I would check the reading log and ask the child to re-read his book to me.  During this time, I will check for accuracy and comprehension, but will notice the amount of enthusiasm with which the child reads the book.  I like to make sure that the book and the child are a “good match”.  We will talk briefly about his thoughts; his errors; and the story in general.   His responses and output will be used to help guide him into another great book.

Linking Literacy Instruction with Independent Instruction:

Working with younger readers can be trying at times.  Allowing them the independence to read can be rather testy.  Oh, they think that they can really read, and some of them can, but for most children, we have to help them to understand that reading is more than just reading the words.  They have to make sense of what they have read, in every aspect.  Through the years, I have found some worthwhile strategies that will help younger readers become more independent readers.  Using word work; word sorts; and simple sight word games, children can create a stronger vocabulary.  Beginning with initial and final sounds; medial vowels; word families; and ending with primer sight words, one can gradually build word knowledge with practice and fun.  To improve fluency and expression, repeated readings works well with younger children.  They love the challenge of beating the timer and watching their graph for success.  And, believe it or not, kindergarteners can obtain a strong grasp of story structure.  If you begin early in the year, and “train their ears” to listen for hints about characters; problems; solutions; and order of events, they eventually begin to hear those items in their own reading.  They can accurately plot the events of the story using tips from the beginning; middle; and ending.  Reading responses from kindergartners can be amusing, while being accurate. They interpret our world differently, and have respect for those things that we’ve forgotten.  Younger children do really well in creating responses through art projects; music or raps; and drama.  They love to use paint; markers; and craft items.  And, I’ve recently found out that they especially love “Reader’s Theater”.  Reader’s Theater is an excellent way to retell a story through reenactment. 


Alexander, J. Estill.  Teaching Reading, 2nd edition.  Boston, MA:  Little, Brown and Company.

Boushey, Gail and Joan Moser.  (2006).  The Daily Five:  Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. Portland,ME:  Stenhouse Publishers. 

Diller, Debbie.  (2003).  Literacy Work Stations:  Making Centers Work.  Portland,ME:  Stenhouse Publishers.

Houghton, Mifflin Company.  (1997).  “The Effects of Independent Readingon Reading Achievement”.

Miller, Jan.  (2010).  “Supporting Students As They Read Independently”.

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

Spear-Swerling, Louise.  “Suggestions for Fostering Independent Reading”.  (August, 2005).

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

Temple, Charles; Miriam Martinez; Junko Yokota; and Alice Naylor.  (1998).  Children’s Books in Children’s Hands. Boston,MA:  Allyn and Bacon.

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Is It My Turn Yet?

What a nice idea!  I am truly grateful to you, Dr. Frye, for opening up this new “avenue” of obtaining classroom supplies.  I’m going to share with my k team!

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Reading Interests in Kindergarten ~ You Might Be Surprised!

I created a reading interest inventory using the example from our textbook (page 57).  I modified it just a bit to make it “kindergarten friendly”, but it did not need much.  I simply attached a parent letter explaining what; why; and how and used the process of completing the survey as our nightly homework assignment. 

I have to say that I was surprised by the responses that I received.  Surprised on several levels.  First, 100% of the surveys were returned!  I never get 100% of anything returned!  Second, about 30% of my students like math as their favorite thing about school.  Of course, 40% liked the playground and/or playing with friends best (that was not much of a surprise).  The remaining smaller percentages were subjects as:  Letterland; drama; art; and music respectively.  Only one child listed her favorite thing in school was reading.  I was both surprised and heart-broken.  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I not the one who has to help foster the enthusiasm for reading.  Am I not enthusiastic enough?  Only one child thinks so.

Nonetheless, I was happy to find out more about their reading habits and likes/dislikes.  I created this chart for myself.


Types of Stories

Number of Students



Funny stories


Scary stories




Famous people


I was not surprised to read that my students love to read animal stories.  I know from our AR series, that they love reading the “Biscuit” books and titles like Down on the Farm; Rosie’s Walk; and Across the Stream.  However, I was more amazed that 19% of my 5-year-olds wanted to read and/or hear scary stories! 

Based on these results, I do need to update our classroom library.  We have picture books (a collection of Tana Hoban); Dr. Seuss; the Froggy series; a section for content reading, such as:  community helpers; weather; plants/flowers; and foods; and various children’s books.  Most of these books I have “inherited” through the years.  Some were purchased for a specific purpose by parents and by myself.  Some, I grabbed from the discarded bins!  Hey, what’s that saying, “one man’s trash . . .

Even though our reading area may seem sufficient for independent reading, these survey results tell another story.  If I am to keep my current students interested in reading on their own, I need to get some more reading materials to match their desires.


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