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World Read Aloud Day and the Older Struggling Reader

Updated on January 26, 2014
Read aloud no matter the age
Read aloud no matter the age

World Read Aloud Day was March 7th, and it sparked a conversation with my husband. I’ve been reading aloud with both of my children almost every day since they were born. My son will be entering middle school next year and my husband thinks he is getting too old to be read to every night. The truth is, there is no age limit when it comes to reading aloud to others. Parents, teachers, and librarians have been reading to children of all ages and their audience has been reaping the benefits.

Too Old for Read Alouds?

How old were your children when you stopped reading aloud to them?

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Benefits of Reading Aloud

  1. Reading aloud fosters a love for reading. When someone reads out loud to a child, they share a story or poem that is special. It encourages children to find more in a book or tell their own story with expression.
  2. Reading aloud builds vocabulary. Reading is one way that children increase their vocabulary. Stories use words that may not be in a typical oral vocabulary of a child, but it demonstrates how to use them within context. Nonfiction books introduces vocabulary that is specific to a topic. Science terms are an example of this.
  3. Reading aloud develops background knowledge. A child learns about their world around them, but when an adult reads about new places and ideas, it increases their background knowledge on those topics and can be a springboard for further research on those ideas. For example, a story about Abraham Lincoln can lead to more books about the Civil War.
  4. Reading aloud develops a bond. Children and their parents create a bond when they share a book together. Parents can share their own personal connection with a book, if they read it when they were their child's age. It can also lead to personal stories from family history. When I read a story about a child's reaction to a new baby in the family, I share with my children about the story when their great-grandfather almost traded his baby sister for a horse. These connections and extensions are just as valuable as the words that are read.

Benefits of Reading Aloud to Older Readers

Primary students learn to read, but from third grade on, students read to learn. This does not mean that reading aloud should be removed from the class schedule, and it isn't. Teachers will read aloud and discuss books during their literature time, but they still find time to read aloud and share stories, poems, or articles of interest to the students. Parents can do the same in their home as they model their own reading and share stories and newspaper articles with their children.

Do older children enjoy this? If reading aloud is consistant in their daily life, they are more likely to enjoy it. This is especially true if the stories are engaging. For the past few weeks I have been reading the Harry Potter series because he wants me to, not because I am making him listen to just any book.

When I was teaching, our school had a teacher-swap day. Teachers would trade classrooms with other teachers and they would read aloud to other students. Since we only had 15 minutes, we couldn't read a whole novel, and many chapters take me at least 30 minutes. I chose to read to the seventh grade class and I brought picture books that many of my second grade students loved. One of those books was Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude, a book I knew they never read when they were in second grade. Whether it was the illustrations that were not babyish or the banter between the young narrators, they were attentive and chuckling as the author intended. They could also relate to the characters who have to learn how to work as a team. You know those 15 minutes were a success when they shared the story with their teacher when she returned.

Benefits of Reading Aloud to Older Struggling Readers

Older struggling readers often get frustrated when they try to read an age appropriate books but struggle with the words or concepts. They want to read the books their friends read, but they cannot read and enjoy it the same way no matter how they try. Instead of waiting for it to come out on video, someone who can read it aloud to them can help them learn and grow. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordian was an intimidating, thick novel for my son, but when his teacher started reading it to the class, he was able to follow along and be engaged in the story.

Struggling readers may not have the same level of fluency as their peers, thus will read fast without comprehending or spend so much time decoding that they lose track of the story. Read alouds are slow enough to understand but fast enough to keep up with the plot or subject.

Not only are struggling readers spending time on decoding regular words, but as the books get more complex in topic or vocabulary, they stumble on important vocabulary. Read alouds allow a more proficient reader to pronouce unique words, foreign words, or dialect that is critical to the voice of the story but a challenge to less proficent readers. I once subbed for an eighth grade class that was reading To Kill a Mockingbird and it was the chapter of the trial in which Tom Robinson was testifying. Harper Lee wrote it in the southern dialect of an African-American rather than grammatically English that is taught in school. By reading it aloud to the students, they could read along and see the words while they hear how it sounds. I threw in a southern drawl as I read along with expression to change the voices in hopes that they could further differentiate the characters.

Expression like voices, accents, dynamics and rhythm makes read alouds more interesting. Whenever I read books with Hispanic characters or Spanish vocabulary, I tend to channel my Spanish-speaking friends and read with an accent. It modeled different ways of interacting with the story which struggling readers can do with volume, rhythm, and voices like male/female or young/old.

Read Aloud Resources

Books to Read Aloud to Older Struggling Readers

The books that you can read aloud to your child depends on your child. They need to have input of what they like, but you should also be interested in the books as well or else you will lose the expression and bond as you read. At the same time, you don't want to force your book choices on your child. I loved Harry Potter and it seemed to be a natural fit for my son and me. I've also read How to Eat Fried Worms, Guys Write for Guys Read, and poetry by Jack Prelutsky.

Teachers, librarians, and friends can share their favorite read-aloud books. They know what engaged them as a reader and what kept the attention of their child or student. It's never too late to share a book or story with your child, and there are thousands of books from which to choose.

What Books to You Like to Read Aloud?

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