If anyone out there can find Ms.Jordan from Brookmill PS in Agincourt, I want to thank her for reading aloud Island of the Blue Dolphins when I was in grade 5. I remember the intense emotions the story evoked. At one point, Ms. Jordan was overwhelmed and asked me to finish reading a heart-wrenching scene to the class. Here I am, decades later, cherishing that beautiful gift she gave us by reading aloud. You may have had a similar experience around that age with books like Charlotte’s Web, Holes, or Bridge to Terabithia. Nothing can compare to hearing a great story in person. It will entertain you, enrich your life, expand your vocabulary, ignite your imagination and give you food for thought.
I am also grateful for the many picture books I have shared with children over the years. They are one of the most powerful teaching tools. With books on every topic imaginable, you can use them to relate to every part of the curriculum. Educators know this, yet I’m left wondering if reading aloud to children is happening less often these days.
During the 2020-21 school year and much of 2021-22, educators had strict restrictions for physical distancing and masking. Reading aloud to students became very challenging. Instead, teachers turned to books online. With desks stretched across the classroom, it was easier to see illustrations on a large screen. Since wearing a mask made projecting our voices difficult, we saved our weary throats for a few minutes while the video played. I understand the need for playing read-aloud videos at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but now students can gather together to listen to a picture book, view the illustrations, and discuss it.
Let’s get back to sharing more rich read-alouds with our classes.
Students will benefit from hearing you bring a book to life. Here are a few of the important reasons you should be the one reading to your class:
* You can model what it means to read with expression,
*The students will be much more likely to ask questions and share similar experiences while you are reading compared to interrupting a video,
* You can stop and clarify word meanings,
*You know your students and can explain the context when needed,
* You can relate your connections to the story,
*You will be strengthening the bonds in your classroom community.
Reading aloud opens a gateway to deep discussions with your class. There is a plethora of incredible books out there! Ask your colleagues and your teacher-librarian for suggestions of books available at your school or visit your local library. Your students may end up thanking you decades later!
Here are a few of my favourites:
Thunderboy Junior by Sherman Alexie – Importance of your Name
I am Enough by Betsy Beyers – Self-Confidence, Identity
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence – Loss of Indigenous Language
The Bad Seed by Jori John – Self Awareness
Duck Days by Sarah Leach – Autism, Friendship
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester – Inclusivity, Humour
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis – Ingenuity
The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson – The story of Nokomis Josephine-ba Mandamin
Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki – Identity
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt – Anxiety
The Secret Life of Owen Skye by Alan Cumyn – Humour, Family
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – Believing in yourself, Love, Loyalty, Courage
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Friendship, Choosing Kindness, Inclusivity
Fatty Legs by Margaret Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton – Residential School, Courage
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes – Racism, Compassion, Gun Violence
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix- Friendship, Courage
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed – Bravery, Hope