Reading aloud to my class is consistently my favorite part of the day. Picture books, articles, chapter books – it doesn’t matter what I am reading.
There is hard evidence showing that reading aloud to students helps to improve their reading fluency and comprehension skills….but that is not what World Read Aloud Day is about. World Read Aloud Day is not about reading to improve benchmark reading levels. It isn’t about preparing for standardized assessments either. World Read Aloud Day is about the best part of reading – connecting with others.
Reading aloud to students creates a community of readers. Sure, everyone is reading or listening to the same text – but the experience is different for each person involved. The book is the glue that binds these experiences together. As students, share, agree, and disagree over what a book’s central messages, themes, and characters, we learn about each other. Read alouds offer more than a model for fluent and expressive reading. They offer more than an opportunity to model reading strategies. Reading aloud offers a safe place to discuss serious, and sometimes not so serious topics.
Today’s World Read Aloud Day was my first and I wanted to make it memorable for my students and me. A few weeks ago I spoke to Melanie Conklin, author of Counting Thyme, and we set up a time to skype. Melanie offered to discuss writing a novel, answer questions, and even read us the first chapter of her upcoming book. Melanie helped to create a buzz about this event in my classroom by sending us a postcard and stickers featuring the cover of Counting Thyme. Not one day passed after we received this envelope full of goodies without one of my students asking “Wait, when is World Read Aloud Day?”
Needless to say, my students arrived this morning with a ton of energy, but as soon as the skype ringtone came through our promethean board speakers, they were absolutely captivated. We have connected with authors via twitter and email on several occasions, but this was different. A REAL LIVE AUTHOR IN REAL TIME! To see and speak to an author face-to-face is an experience that all students should have. It shows that them authors are real people just like them, and that being an author is something they themselves can become as well. Along with connecting with Author Melanie Conklin about writing, my readers were able to connect with Melanie Conklin the reader. They were excited to find out that she is a fan of fantasy books and, obviously, the Harry Potter series. This was a really, really, fun experience for our class and we cannot thank Melanie for joining us for this awesome day.
BUT, as I’d soon find out, our World Read Aloud Day wasn’t over just yet. One of the connections I have made as an educator via twitter is John Schumacher (AKA Mr. Schu). Mr. Schu is the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, and someone who has helped and inspired me to become a children’s reading advocate. Mr. Schu contacted me via twitter and offered to read with my class since he had some open time in his schedule. Today just kept getting better and better. We read aloud
Bob Shea’s “Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret”, Mr. Schu shared some upcoming books, then we all shared some of our current reads and favorite books. My students couldn’t wait to discuss books like Amulet: Firelight, Paper Wishes, and Crenshaw. This was a reading connection at its simplest – going back and forth sharing favorite books.
I am very grateful for World Read Aloud Day and the opportunity my students I had to share our love of reading with authors and book lovers alike. This is definitely a day worth celebrating in schools year after year.