Reading aloud is an everyday occurrence in many classrooms, but for the best read alouds, more goes into it than simply picking a book off the shelf, sitting the class down, and getting to it. Here’s one process of how to thoughtfully read to a class.
Step 1: Select a Book
Books should be age appropriate for the audience, it wouldn’t be wise to select a chapter book for preschoolers or an ABC book for high schoolers. The books for younger readers should be less complex than those for older readers. For this tutorial, I will be selecting and reading a book for a preschool class. When choosing a book, keep in mind the purpose for reading, will it be used to teach or introduce a concept? A moral? Is it purely for entertainment? Read the book to make sure it fits with the identified purpose. Look closely at the illustrations, they should correspond to and enhance the words on the page. The subject matter and story itself is also important, keeping the audience in mind when selecting the book, make sure it is on a topic they will find interesting. For my class, I selected How to Catch a Mouse by Philippa Leathers.
The Great Gatsby: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby
How to Catch a Mouse: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22747817-how-t...
Goodnight Moon: https://100bookseverychildshouldreadbeforegrowing...
One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest: http://www.bpl.org/teens/tag/one-flew-over-the-cu...
Hoot and Peep: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25734206-hoot-...
The Poisonwood Bible: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7244.The_Poiso...
Baby Bear Sees Blue: http://ashleywolff.com/wordpress/?p=1704
Polar Bear’s Underwear: https://www.amazon.com/Polar-Bears-Underwear-Tupe...
Step 2: Review and Prepare
Read and re-read the book several times, silently and out loud. Upon review, problems with the text or pictures may appear that were missed after the initial reading. It may be more of a negative feeling, than finding any obvious, glaring issues. For example, I initially selected Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil, thinking it was a wonderful story about two unlikely insects coming together for a common goal, but when I read it out loud I disliked the repeated used of the word “drat,” and the scenes of the insects fighting, so decided against using it. If this occurs, select a new book using the guidelines in Step 1.
If the book has no glaring issues after review, it’s time to figure out how to present the book.
Make sure to fact check the book if need be. So as not to confuse children, all information is either made up, or true. If there is a combination of truth and fantasy it’s beneficial to the children to discuss what is real and what is made up; this can be done before or after reading.
Anticipate questions by identifying any concepts the audience may need explained so you can answer them before they’re asked; maybe there are words that need to be defined, an unfamiliar concept that needs explaining; perhaps there is a strange animal in the book, a foreign country, or a holiday not celebrated by a majority of the class. You will need to discuss these before reading. It is not necessary to identify all items the children may have trouble conceptualizing, just the ones necessary for the children to understand the book as a whole.
Next, choose any pages you wish to pause at to ask questions. It’s best not ask questions on every page, as it may result in children having difficulty following the story. Try and limit it to 2 or 3 times, however it is not necessary to stop at all.
Here are some example questions to use.
· Guess what will happen in the story. What makes you think that will happen?
· What do you already know about this topic?
· Do you think this book is real or make believe?
· Is this what we predicted would happen?
· What do you think will happen next?
· How do you think this will end?
· How many _______ are on the page?
· Can you identify the characters?
Step 3: Before Reading
Gather the children who will be listening to the story and ask them to sit down in a way where everyone will be able to see and hear you, allowing them a minute or two to get comfortable.
Next it’s time to begin the pre-reading discussion. Anything identified in the last step should be discussed before reading. Using the examples from the previous section, define for the audience any words they may not know, show the audience a picture of the animal, point out a foreign country on a map, tell the class what people from this country are called, identify the religion or country associated with the holiday, who celebrates it (including anyone in the class), and why it’s important without going into much detail or repeating everything in the book. Any other items that require discussion before reading should be discussed now. Now is also the time to ask any pre-reading questions, and explain why the book was chosen. If the children are asked to guess what will happen, it’s helpful to keep a list of their predictions to refer to during or after reading.
For my book, I decided to ask the kids what the book was about, most replied saying a cat tries to catch a mouse. I then asked how many think the cat will catch the mouse and how many think it will not, and wrote their names in a chart.
Step 4: Reading the Book
Above, is a list of Dos and Don'ts for reading aloud.
When appropriate, pause to ask questions during reading. Again, it’s best not to stop on every page. Be sure to keep the students focused on the story and avoid off topic discussion. In How to Catch a Mouse, I had the children to point out the mouse on several pages and asked them to tell me what he did to disguise his identity. This showed them the silliness in the story, and would later help them understand the ending.
Step 5: Examples of Where I Paused
These are photos of pages from the book How to Catch a Mouse by Philippa Leathers. I circled the mouse on the page and red. I asked individual students to point to the mouse and identify what he was wearing to disguise himself.
Step 6: After Reading
Review what has been read to assess the children’s understanding of the book. Some questions to ask:
· What was your favorite part? Why?
· Who was your favorite character?
· What did you like or dislike about the book?
· What do you think about the ending?
How to Catch a Mouse ends without showing if Clemmie the cat ever catches the mouse, so I asked the students again what they thought would happen, and everyone agreed Clemmie would catch the mouse.
After reading is a great time to do another activity related to the book. I didn’t have time for one after reading How to Catch a Mouse, but was able to compile a list of activities that would work with other books.
· If the book is used to introduce a topic like a holiday or animal, further explore that topic
· If the book has a specific food that is important to the story, now would be the time to make and eat that food
· If the setting is important in the story, like a zoo, go there
· Find or create worksheets and coloring pages related to the book
· Act out the story, either with the students as characters or using by giving them puppets, stuffed animals, or dolls
· Watch a movie or video about the book
· Read another book and compare them
· Draw a scene from the book
· Come up with a new ending
Step 7: Read Again!
Either the same book or another. Reading to children as often as possible helps build their vocabulary, language skills, and prepares them to read on their own.