• Kristin Hankins

Reading Aloud to Teens

I only have one teen right now, and I have read aloud to him his entire life. We have steadily had more babies over the years, so he has continued to be immersed in books and a routine of being read aloud to throughout his entire life. He still loves it! But, I know for many families, once all the kids are older, it can become uncharted territory. They can read to themselves! We are busy! We have homework, sports, dinner... Do we really need to continue reading aloud to our big kids? Long story short... yes! Why? Well, I brought in an an expert to answer that question for us today: An eighth grade teacher, Ashlyn Hudson.

Ashlyn tells us:

In my eighth grade classroom, I read aloud to my students frequently. Although read-alouds are commonplace in elementary school, they occur much less frequently in the classrooms and homes of middle school aged children. Just because a child is old enough to read well on their own, doesn’t mean you should never read to them. Educational research has found that children of all ages benefit greatly from hearing texts read aloud. Here are some of the reasons I choose to read aloud to my students:

Read-alouds are fun.

In addition to providing cognitive benefits, read-alouds are fun and engaging. They give me the unique chance to share my passion for literature with my students. Reading aloud provides me the opportunity to help bring the text alive for them. I can give different voices and accents to each character, pause for dramatic effect, and all-around showcase my enthusiasm for reading. Whenever I’m reading aloud in class and begin to reach a stopping point, my students say, “No, keep reading!” The excitement of read-alouds sparks an eagerness and joy within my students that silent reading simply cannot achieve.

Read-alouds provide an opportunity to model pronunciation and cadence.

When you read aloud, you are able to model proper pronunciation of tricky vocabulary for your students. Not only that, but hearing you work through phonetically pronouncing a difficult word will show students that they should also do this when they are reading independently, rather than simply avoiding tough words by ignoring them. I can’t count how many times students have chimed in during read-alouds with: “Oh, that’s how you say that word? I always just skipped over it”

You can also demonstrate inflection of your pitch and tone while reading aloud. By modulating your voice, you will help your young readers learn to mirror the cadence you have demonstrated and avoid developing monotone voices in their heads while reading alone.

Read-alouds also provide an opportunity to model metacognition through think-alouds.

Perhaps the most important advantage of read-alouds are that they give the teacher or parent the opportunity to model reading strategies for his or her students. A great way to do this is through think-alouds, which demonstrate metacognition in a way that is easy for students to replicate themselves.

During a think-aloud, the teacher or parent simply pauses throughout reading aloud to interact with and question the text. For example, I could pause on a difficult vocabulary word and say, “Hmm, I wonder what this means. Let me see if I can use any context clues to help me figure out the definition of this word.” Then, I could demonstrate the process of identifying and utilizing context clues. I can also start to pose higher level questions, such as, “What is the purpose of this detail? I wonder why the author chose to include it here.” Think-alouds are best paired with a follow up activity which asks students to read the next section of text and jot down notes and questions while reading. After all, the goal of a think-aloud is to teach students to interact with and question the text themselves. By reading aloud and orating your thoughts, you allow your students to have a model from which to guide their own reading process.

There is no age limit for reading aloud. In fact, it is necessary to continue to read aloud to middle school children because it provides crucial opportunities to model advanced reading strategies which they may imitate. And of course, it’s fun—what’s better than teaching a child to enjoy reading?

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