I have so many great memories of being read aloud to. My parents were (and still are) huge supporters of literacy. For quite some time, my bedtime routine involved selecting a book or two (or as many as I could convince my parents) off my shelf. I’ve been told that the phrase ‘short story long story’ was one I used often. This was in reference to a collection of Sesame Street books I had that contained collections of stories of varying lengths. Evidently this was my favorite tactic to swindling some read aloud time out of people, and I was pretty good at it!
As I progressed through elementary school, read alouds were hands down my favorite part of the day. Even after I had mastered the skill of reading, there was nothing better than the teacher turning off the lights, pulling out a chapter book, and reading. I remember in 4th grade, my teacher was reading one of the Wayside School books aloud. One day during that time, I stayed home sick from school. I was more upset about the fact that I was going to miss the story, than I was about being sick! I could care less about the math and social studies I was missing, but in pieces over that book. I came back the next day, expressed this to my teacher, and she let me catch up on what I missed!
In the summers after middle school, when I was still too young to get a job, I helped my mom at her in home daycare. She was very insistent that as soon as a child was able to sit for the duration of a picture book, they were read to. This was often a job I did, and I loved it. We had a couple of high energy two year old boys that would run wild all day. However, when someone sat down and read a book to them, they would sit the whole time, and you wouldn’t hear a peep from either. It was quite magical.
I’m glad I learned the power of a read aloud so early on. Books are a tool that I have used at many subsequent babysitting and childcare jobs I’ve had since. Whenever I felt like the kids were going crazy, I’d pull out a book and read to them. They’d settle down. If my after school program kids were having a rough go at the day, I never yelled or got mad. Instead, I’d ignore whatever was going on, bring them all together, and read a book. Instantly the room was at peace again. From there it was much easier to have a conversation about whatever they had been struggling with. My program didn’t have the greatest selection of books. So, when I realized how much my kids loved being read to, I would check out books from the library every week. They would get excited when they saw a new stack of books, and immediately ask me which one we were going to read that day. I had gotten my kids EXCITED about books! If that doesn’t show you how powerful a read aloud can be, I don’t know what will.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. This won’t work with EVERY child or EVERY group of kids. However, in my experience, it is always worth the shot. It might surprise you how many kids just want an adult to take the time to sit down with them. To read to them. To have a conversation about anything besides curriculum or appropriate behaviors. To any nay sayers, I get it. Read alouds seem so simple, how could they possibly provide any sort of benefit? They just do. I feel read alouds are underrated because they don’t come with any sort of technology, they don’t spit out data, and they aren’t a curriculum set that set the school back hundreds of dollars. Read alouds are simple, and as we embrace the newer more complex things, we shouldn’t forget those things that are tried and true.
Long story short: read to the kids around you. Whether they are two or a senior in high school, that time reading aloud will always be well spent.