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Literacy Development: Why Reading Aloud Matters

As many children know, snuggling up for bedtime stories makes going to sleep so much better. But reading aloud to children is much more than a bonding experience. Reading Rockets, a national literacy initiative, describes reading aloud to children as “the single most important activity for reading success.”

The importance of early literacy development is well-established. A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) underscores the long-term consequences of low achievement in reading. “Reading proficiently by the end of third grade (as measured by NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] at the beginning of fourth grade) can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development.”

A master’s degree in elementary education will help teachers advance their knowledge and skills in essential areas, including reading and literacy development. Mississippi College (MC), for example, offers an online M.Ed. in Elementary Education that provides in-depth study of essential topics. Coursework in research-based approaches for comprehension instruction can help teachers develop effective read-aloud strategies.

Why Does Reading Aloud to Children Matter?

Reading Rockets identifies the following benefits of reading aloud to children:

  • Promotes reading as a rewarding activity.
  • Facilitates interest in books and a desire to be a reader.
  • Develops an appreciation for story structure (such as characters, plot and setting).
  • Demonstrates the relationship between print and meaning.
  • Provides a model of fluent reading.
  • Allows children to listen at a higher level than if reading on their own.
  • Increases access to more sophisticated vocabulary, ideas and language patterns.

Reading aloud to children helps them build literacy skills long before they learn to read. Reading to Young Children, a publication of the nonprofit research organization Child Trends, sums up the advantages: “Young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of phonological, letter name, and sound awareness, and better success at decoding words.”

How Can Teachers Make the Most of Reading Aloud?

Read-alouds create a shared text for students to discuss, regardless of their individual reading ability. “Performing” a read-aloud, using gestures, voices and expressions, helps keep students engaged as they listen.

The online literacy resource ReadWriteThink identifies the following guidelines for classroom read-alouds:

  • Choose texts a level or two above students’ grade.
  • In selecting a text, look at vocabulary load, themes, representation of cultural diversity and student interest.
  • Review the text in advance for words students will need to know. Pre-teach this vocabulary, or pause during reading to offer short definitions.
  • Notice opportunities in the text for student participation. For instance, pause for a short discussion about something surprising.

Teachers can also use a “think-aloud” strategy to model comprehension strategies. Reading Rockets describes think-alouds as “eavesdropping on someone’s thinking.”┬áDuring a read-aloud, this involves stopping now and then to “think aloud” about a challenging word, prediction, personal connection and so on. This process helps students develop the habits of skilled readers.

Reading aloud is more than a fun way to connect with children; it is widely accepted that reading aloud to children is one of the most powerful ways to support academic success. MC’s program prepares teachers to integrate research-based theory and practice. This includes opportunities to study the complex process of comprehension.

In turn, this coursework can support educators in using read-alouds as an effective instructional strategy. What better way to promote literacy development, reading achievement and academic success?

Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.


Sources:

Reading Rockets: Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension

The Annie E. Casey Foundation: Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of the Third Grade Matters

Child Trends: Reading to Young Children

ReadWriteThink: Teacher Read-Aloud That Models Reading for Deep Understanding

Reading Rockets: Think-Alouds

TeacherVision: Reading Aloud


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