- 3 mins
The Many Benefits of Read Alouds in School
If you’re an adult, thinking back to your elementary and middle school days is likely a blur of learning activities, friends and teachers who had an impact on your growth and development. You may not remember exactly what you learned, but you probably remember the teacher quieting down the class. Or maybe them calling for attention and picking up a book to read aloud to a room of students ready to be enraptured by a story?
Even as adults, there’s something soothing about having an author’s voice guide us through their work in an audiobook. It allows us to be transported away and absorb information without scanning pages with our eyes. Studies have shown that, for children, there are many benefits of read-alouds in schools – including significantly improving vocabulary development. For example, a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Psychology found that students who participated in read-alouds were three times more likely to be exposed to new words outside of their everyday vocabulary (Massaro 2017).
Think back to your earlier education days again. If you experienced stress in the classroom, some of it may have come from turn-based reading. By this, I mean counting the students ahead of you so that you could figure out which paragraph you would read aloud and practice it in your head while others were reading. You likely didn’t comprehend the material beyond your assigned section.
The Benefits of Read-Alouds in School
Fortunately, research has shown that read-alouds can also improve reading comprehension (Marchessault & Larwin, 2013). When students aren’t going through the stress of the aforementioned popcorn-style reading activity, they’re able to absorb the information better. They can focus on the words themselves, word meaning and the arc of the story.
In addition to allowing students to comprehend information from a highly literate and knowledgeable source (their teacher), read-alouds encourage dialogue. When older students are assigned reading as in-school work or homework, it’s likely that they’ll encounter unfamiliar words or phrases. While it’s important to encourage students to discover the meaning of these words or phrases on their own, younger or less experienced students need a guiding hand before they can flex those reading muscles. In an interactive setting such as a read-aloud, where a teacher is actively sharing information, it is much more likely that a discussion will be sparked. Better understanding will be achieved!
When reading aloud to students, try setting a timer or being aware of the time. Every five to ten minutes (or three to five minutes for younger students), find a stopping point and ask if anyone has questions about what they have heard. Allow students to raise their hands and ask for clarification as needed so that no questions fall through the cracks. And plan some questions ahead of time around target words that you think your students will ask about.
Marchessault, J. K. & Larwin, K. H. (2013). Structured read-aloud In middle school: The potential impact on reading achievement. Contemporary Issues In Education Research, 6(2), 241–246.
Massaro, D. W. (2017). Reading aloud to children: Benefits and implications for acquiring literacy before schooling begins. The American Journal of Psychology, 130(1), 63–72.