"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Father's Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children.

From my first teaching day in Kindergarten at Coesse Elementary School in rural Whitley County Indiana, to the last day I taught in a general education classroom (also Kindergarten) at Harlan Elementary School I tried not to miss even one day of reading aloud to students. I read picture books, short novels and longer novels...I read at every grade I taught, Kindergarten through sixth grade. If there was a day during which I had to skip something I tried the best I could NOT to skip readaloud time. I'm sure there must have been a few days here and there in which I didn't read aloud to my class during my years of teaching in general education classrooms...but I can't remember any of them.

I read aloud to all my classes because I'm convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Schools are organized around reading. It's the main focus of the early grades. Content in the higher grades is most often presented through text. In addition, children who are connected to the internet and mobile communications are inundated with text all day long. Gary Burton, the superintendent of Wayland Public Schools (MA) wrote in an article titled, Most Important Skill Child Needs to Learn...
For the past 500 years, no other skill even comes close to ensuring an individual’s success as this one very basic, very academic, and very essential lifelong skill. 
Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” [Emphasis added]

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their children become better readers.

Reading aloud brings you closer to your child...every day.

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