|Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Ben Bunch|
Today is World Read Aloud Day. I have been considering and reconsidering read aloud in print for 10 years and in classroom practice for almost 30 years. When I attempt to distill the power of read aloud, it always comes down to COMMUNITY.
Read aloud builds a community of readers.
Read aloud is the common thread that ties together all the listeners in the classroom. It gives them books in common, authors in common, stories in common, and characters in common. Read aloud is when we think together, laugh together, and sometimes cry together.
Read aloud is the dock where we tie up all of our reading canoes, the airport where we land our reading airplanes, the parking lot where we park our reading cars.
Read aloud is a movie theater, where everyone in the audience gets the same soundtrack, even though the screen and the pictures are inside each head.
Read aloud is what solitary readers can do together. It’s a book club, only better, because the conversations don’t just happen after everyone has read the book in isolation. You talk about the book all the way through. Sometimes there’s no time left over to read the book because you’ve spent so much time talking about it. And that’s okay, because read aloud has a permanent spot on the classroom’s daily schedule. The book will be there, waiting for us tomorrow. We can plan on read aloud. We can depend on read aloud.
Read aloud builds readers.
Read aloud is the constant in the changing swirl of classroom content. It’s the learning time that demands both the most and the least of a learner. It’s a time, I was told by a student once, to “learn without trying.” The listener takes from the read aloud what he or she can or will on a day-to-day basis.
Read aloud might be the book that none of the listeners would ever read independently. Read aloud provides a life vest, a climbing harness, a parachute, a safety net to support readers through topics or ideas or genres or events in history that they could never or would never attempt on their own. Read aloud stretches minds. Read aloud opens doors. Read aloud breaks down barriers.
Read aloud cannot be measured or programized or standardized or equalized or regimented. It is organic. Everything depends on the teacher, the book, and the listeners. Read aloud can never be the same thing twice. Read aloud is an art, not a science. The reader paints meaning with book choice, inflection, intonation, sound effects, pauses, and discussion. The listener begins by viewing the reader’s paintings, but often ends up inhabiting the paintings – becoming the characters, experiencing the settings, living the story.
Build can mean construct, establish, or increase. Read aloud builds community, and read aloud builds readers.