This post was written by NCTE member Pam Allyn, a member of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.
The recently-released first installment of the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 7th Edition shows that positive read-aloud habits are on-the-rise. This data is so powerful because it highlights ongoing opportunities for even more read-aloud moments among children and their families.
On Friday, February 1, World Read Aloud Day captured the attention of families around the globe. This annual celebration, created by LitWorld and then scaled to millions more by Scholastic, galvanizes us all around the power of the read-aloud. I was inspired ten years ago to create this moment when a young boy in a classroom I visited became entranced by a story I was reading and approached me afterward to say “we need a party for reading aloud so everyone can know how great it is!” I still think about him when I reflect on the importance of the read-aloud.
Reading aloud provides people of all ages the opportunity to claim the power of their voices, build a sense of community, and foster hope. This is so important, especially as children develop their reading identities, but even beyond, when they are comfortable with text, the experience is still valuable.
It is our role as educators to advocate for the importance of reading aloud so that students have abundant opportunities to experience the read-aloud at school and at home all year long. Let’s commit to continuously celebrating the read-aloud while keeping these four benefits top-of-mind:
Children of all ages enjoy the read-aloud.
- More parents are reading aloud to their young children, and families are also reading aloud more frequently. In the latest Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, we see that 55% of children ages 0–5 are reading books aloud at home at least five days a week. But after the age of six, these percentages decrease drastically. This is the age when kids typically start kindergarten, so it is an opportunity for teachers to express to families how important it is to continue reading aloud with children of all ages. Consider sending notes home with tips for engaging family read-aloud experiences.
- We know that overwhelmingly, kids and parents enjoy spending time reading aloud together, so this is a welcome idea. More than 80% of both kids and parents love or like read-aloud time.
- Of course, we should also remember to make the read-aloud a priority in our classrooms across grade levels. Read-alouds should be embedded in curriculum, and there are tools available to support this. Let’s set aside time to read aloud as often as possible during the school day, and encourage students to continue the practice with caregivers at home.
Reading aloud together is spending time together.
- The read-aloud is a bonding mechanism and a shared experience with text. When reading aloud with children, we show them that we care and that they are valuable to us.
- The latest Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report showed us with data what we feel to be true: the read-aloud is a partnership. Kids told us how much they enjoyed laughing and talking while reading aloud with their parents. Although there is not a clear causal relationship, we also discovered that kids ages 6–11 who actively participate in read-aloud time by asking questions or making funny noises and sound effects are more likely than other children to be frequent readers.
- Let’s remind families that reading aloud does not have to happen at designated times. Ninety-one percent of parents with children ages 0–8 to whom they read aloud say it is a spur-of-the-moment activity. In 70% of those occasions, the child asked to be read aloud to, so we should be receptive in those moments.
Read-alouds are learning moments.
- Forty percent of parents told us they use the read-aloud to help with learning moments at home. Plus, research shows read-aloud frequency can help shape a young child into a frequent reader. Through the read-aloud, kids get exposure to different types of literary and informational text, vocabulary, grammatical structures, and story.
- Access to books is essential for living a hopeful and productive life. Being read to, reading for yourself, and discussing what you’ve read create an upward trend that leads to more reading, greater academic achievement, and personal fulfillment throughout life (Cunningham and Zilbulsky, 2014; Jacobs, 2014; Neuman and Celano, 2012)
- Nothing is off-limits when it comes to reading aloud, and every book qualifies, including favorites such as the Harry Potter books. So we can read kids the books that are beyond their reading levels, as well as books that are familiar to them. Kids love to hear the same books, and it is a wonderful thing as they experience language and make meaning of the text.
The read-aloud fosters community.
- Kids need people in their lives whom they can look to as reading role models. This includes caregivers, siblings, extended family members, friends and peers.
- While more moms than dads read to children from birth to age 11 (93% compared to 79%), two-thirds of parents (66%) say the read-aloud experience includes more than just the reader and the child. Everyone plays an important role in the read-aloud, so let’s encourage the male caregivers to be even more engaged in reading with their children.
- At school, we can implement programs and classroom experiences that encourage students to read aloud to one another, and invite older students to partner with younger students in the read-aloud experience. Let’s also invite caregivers and community members into the classroom to read aloud with our students, sharing with kids different types of family structures, cultures, and languages.
- School-wide read-aloud events can also be held to generate excitement across grade levels. On World Read Aloud Day 2019, Scholastic hosted a virtual read-aloud event on Facebook featuring famous authors who read excerpts from their latest books. Schools from around the world tuned in to participate, and your school can access the event recording any time, here.
The need for more read-aloud opportunities is essential. As educators, we play an important role in making the read-aloud a focus throughout the year, and in supporting children and their families as they engage in continuous read-aloud experiences. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 7th Edition contains powerful evidence showing exactly why the read-aloud is worth promoting in school and at home. Let’s come together with families to make reading aloud a priority and to help students become the empowered and voracious readers we know they can be.
Pam Allyn is Senior Vice President, Innovation and Development, Scholastic Education, and the founder of LitWorld. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report: The Rise of Read-Aloud is the first of three reports encompassing the 7th Edition’s wide-breadth of data. Two additional installments will be released this spring focusing on the latest trends in children’s reading habits, what kids and parents want in books, book access, as well as summer reading.
“The Standing Committee on Global Citizenship works to identify and address issues of broad concern to NCTE members interested in promoting global citizenship and connections across global contexts within the Council and within members’ teaching contexts.”