I am blessed. That’s the realization I have come to over and over this week while reading. I never really stopped to think before what it meant to have people in my life that valued books and reading. I’ve never stopped to think about the impact that they had on my life. The hours that my mom spent reading to me as a child, or patiently waiting on me to struggle through the words on a page because I wanted to show her just how much I was improving. We are increasingly becoming more aware of the impact that reading aloud has on our students. My parents valued reading a lot. They have always encouraged my siblings and I to continue to develop our reading skills. I actually used to get books under my pillow from the tooth fairy instead of quarters, which honestly I thought was cooler. My elementary teachers used to read to us over our lunch hour, while we enjoyed the various homemade lunches that had been packed for us that day. I attended a country school, so things were done a little differently.
My point with all this is I don’t really think about how blessed I was growing up. I never think about how being read aloud to helped make me into the reader that I am today. I never thought about my teacher’s pushing me to read books that I enjoyed helped make me into the vivacious reader that I became, but I’m starting to see just how they did it.
Step One: Read Aloud to Your Students
Not every student will be blessed to have parents that read to them aloud. The benefits of having a book read aloud are numerous. In fact, reading books aloud can actually help students develop better comprehension skills and vocabulary (A Curriculum Staple: Reading Aloud). This doesn’t mean just reading to those kids in elementary school, but to our high school and middle school students as well. Reading aloud helps to take strain of the brain and allow students to enjoy and comprehend what is being read to them. One of the teachers I observed during O&P, who taught 7th & 8th grade reading, explained to me that by reading aloud in class, and by using methods such as ‘popcorn reading, she had been able to improved students’ comprehension and identify areas where certain students were struggling. It also gave her the opportunity to point out things such as style, description, and define vocabulary words.
Step Two: Encourage Your Own Students to Read Books that they Enjoy
I’ve talked a lot about Penny Kittle’s suggestions for reading in the past, so I’ll keep this one short. Having teachers that aren’t focused on just the classics allows students to develop their love for reading. We have to read that students can actually improve when they are reading books that they enjoy. One thing I love about Kittle is her book talks. In these talks she gives students the opportunity to learn about books that they might enjoy. This opens the door for students to actually find books that they can read.
Step Three: Understand that Reading Leads to Learning
Reading is so important, and I’m not talking about just reading the classics and dissecting them. Reading does many things. We hear all the time how reading continues to advance our own vocabulary, and overall make us more knowledgeable. What some people don’t know or choose to ignore is that reading also makes us better writers. Stephen King even says in his book “On Writing” that one of the best ways to become a better writer is to read, read, read. More reading leads to better writing, and better writing leads to better communicators. We don’t realize how much we pick up from reading, but those who read more often better understand grammar, comma usage, and sentence structures. This is all just because they have been reading books by good writers. Kittle also points out that through her book conferences she is able to accomplish several things. She is able to push students to try books that are harder, and test things like comprehension without the students even realizing what she is doing.
In order to help our students we have to be willing to try new things, and speaking from past experience I never would have become the reader that I am today if people hadn’t taken the time to do these things in my life.