By Teachers, For Teachers
On Feb. 1, 2018, World Read Aloud Day celebrates the pure joy of oral reading with kids of all ages. Created by LitWorld, past years have found more than 1 million people in 100 countries joining together to enjoy the power and wonder of reading aloud in groups or individually, at school as part of classroom activities, or home, and discovering what it means to listen to a story told through the voice of another. For many, this is a rare opportunity to hear the passion of a well-told story and fall in love with tales where hearing them reaches listeners on a level nothing else can. Think back to your experiences. You probably sat with an adult, in their lap or curled up in bed. The way they mimicked the voices in the story, built drama, and enthused with you over the story and characters made you want to read more stories like that on your own. This is a favorite activity not just for pre-readers, but beginning and accomplished readers because it's not about reading the book; it's about experiencing it through the eyes of a storyteller. Somehow, as lives for both the adults and children have gotten busier, as digital devices have taken over, as parents turned to TVs or iPads to babysit kids while they do something else, we've gotten away from this most companionable of activities. World Read Aloud Day is an opportunity to get back to it. Here are some classroom activities designed to do just that.
There is no more powerful way to develop a love of reading than being read to. Hearing pronunciations, decoding words in context, experiencing the development and completion of a well-plotted story as though you were there are reason enough to read aloud but there's more. Reading in general and reading aloud specifically is positively correlated to literacy and success in school. It builds foundational learning skills, introduces and reinforces vocabulary, and provides a joyful activity that's mostly free, cooperative, and often collaborative. Did you know reading aloud:
I know -- you're convinced but don't know how to blend read-alouds into your busy classroom schedule. Here are some ideas, from a time commitment of a few minutes to a few hours:
Have a library of books intended to be read aloud. These can be both print and digital, to fit all children's reading preference. When you have classroom reading time, kids can pair up and read to each other.
Here's a list of online sites with digital books that can be quickly accessed, mostly free, for this activity:
Whether you have iPads, Macs, PCs, or Chromebooks, teach students as young as kindergarten how to access the book curation tool (such as iBooks, RAZKids, Kindle, or another) to find stories to read with each other. This is not necessarily intuitive, especially with the variety of reading apps and devices, often different between home and school. Most digital book readers include a read-aloud function that enables students to have a favorite book read to them. Sometimes it's native to the app (like Adobe Acrobat/Reader) and other times it's through the computer’s operating system (like Kindle's iOS VoiceOver accessibility feature). Help students find this tool as well as other useful skills like how to turn pages, highlight favorite passages, add a comment, share ideas with other readers, save the page they're on, and access the story/book from home as well as school. Which of these functions can be performed varies considerably with the reader being used. Become familiar with yours, so you can share easily with students.
In this activity, students volunteer to read a story of their choice (approved by you) to classmates. This may be a 10-minute event that opens or ends the school day, or an hour-long activity that occurs weekly or monthly. It may even be after school or in the evening. Pick a time that suits your student group and parents if you plan to include them. Here's how it works:
As a class (or in small groups), sit in a circle and create a collaborative on-the-fly story by having each person add a sentence, one at a time, as you go around the circle. You might want to come up with a theme or a description of key characters before beginning to get everyone started. Depending on group size, you can assign tasks to each student beforehand and provide time to prepare. These would include developing a character, setting, plot point, problem, or ending. Each addition must build on the prior students' storylines and characters.
To extend this activity, record the story and use the recording in a writing activity where students write a story based on the Round Robin activity.
Have each parent commit to reading to their child on World Read Aloud Day. Have them take a selfie of the two of them and send it to you to be posted in a gallery. If a parent can't, have available a group reading event (via a free virtual meeting tool like Google Hangouts or Skype) where you or another teacher will read a story to children on that special evening.
Arrange with a children's author to visit your class on World Read-Aloud Day to read their book to the class. This is a great opportunity to blend all grade-level classes into one room. Usually, authors will take questions after the reading so have students prepared with queries that are appropriate to the class and author.
Children's writer Miranda Paul, author of such wonderful books as “Are We Pears Yet” and “I Am a Farmer,” has offered to read to classes via a 15-20 minute Skype call. Check out this link. For longer lists, here are Scholastic authors who will Skype with your classroom and a list of Penguin Young Reader authors who Skype.
Join readers all over the world for a World Read-aloud Skypeathon. On this day, children worldwide will share the experience of reading aloud by reading to each other. You can take part by clicking this link to register your class. Each student will get a Certificate of Participation to applaud the part they played in sharing the love of reading aloud.
Need help organizing a read-aloud activity? The Scholastic Book Fairs World Read Aloud Day kit is a wonderful guide for planning an event centered on family and parent engagement. Additionally, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science has this suggested list of STEM read-aloud books:
For more ideas, download this World Read-aloud PDF.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days.