Five tips for reading aloud in the classroom

I spent many years working in a classroom as a lead teacher. I LOVED my time working with children and am often asked if I miss being in the classroom. Upon reflection I discovered there are a few things I truly wish I could share with children again. One of the fondest things I experienced with children was reading aloud and sharing books with them. I loved watching their faces as we read together and learned the story of so many characters. Whether it was helping the peddler retrieve his caps from the mischievous monkeys or watching everyone being woke up by the flea in the Napping House, I was in heaven reading with my students.

A report by the Commission of Reading titled Becoming a Nation of Readers states “The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” As child care providers, think of the impact you can have with the children you serve just by reading aloud with them once a day.

5 Tips for reading aloud in your early childhood classroom

I have found, however, that many teachers are uncomfortable with reading aloud to children. They are afraid to step out of the box and “become” the character in fear of looking silly or doing it incorrectly. Reading aloud might feel unnatural. In an effort to help teachers become more comfortable with reading aloud below are some tips to help story time be a rich and meaningful experience for everyone.

Be mindful of your audience and choose a story that matches the intellectual and emotional level of your students.  Predictable stories and stories with lots of repetition are perfect for preschoolers. Fairy tales and chapter books are great for older children. Choose stories you loved as a child and are excited to share with your students. Your enthusiasm will be contagious!

Practice reading the story aloud before sharing it with your students. Practice will give you the confidence needed to read aloud with emphasis. As you are practicing, think of examples and real-life situations to help build the background knowledge of your students and ways to help them relate to the story. Also, try to develop some open-ended questions to reinforce comprehension.

Use your voice to paint the picture. Your voice can be used as a prop. It can be loud or soft, fast or slow, high or low, angry or kind. Your voice can express rhythm and rhyme and can be music to the ears of your audience.

Facial expressions and body language are crucial. Facial expressions and gestures can help children understand new vocabulary. Encourage children to interact by using the gestures to describe what they see in the pictures, repeating phrases, or having them mimic your facial expressions. The more involved the students the more they will learn and the more they will comprehend of the story.

Lastly, make the book available to students after you have finished reading it. This important step allows children to look at and interact with the story on their terms and at their pace. Children can reflect upon the story and relate it to their world.

Reading aloud is one of the greatest gifts we can give to children.  As child care providers we have the opportunity to show children the world by simply opening a book and sharing the love of words and pictures. I encourage you to take the time each day to share the beauty of our world through books and reading aloud.

2 thoughts on “Five tips for reading aloud in the classroom

  1. Janine

    Great tips, Patty! Two things I would add from my own experience:

    -reading the book ahead if time also helps you figure out if the content is appropriate. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a book and having to explain something you weren’t prepared for. In my 2nd grade classroom I didn’t vet a book as I should have and realized too late that the main character liked to pull pranks on her siblings. I had to have a discussion with the kids about why I didn’t want to get notes from their families saying they had used the story as a how-to with their own siblings.

    -a great way to ensure the open-ended questions you brainstorm don’t get forgotten is to write them on sticky notes and attach them to the pages they would go with. It sure beats wracking your brain as you’re trying to read because those open-ended questions are TOUGH to think of on the spot! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your passion with us!

    1. Patty Taylor Post author

      Thanks for the comments and suggestions! I definitely agree planning and pre-reading are key. I’ve also had some sticky situations I’ve had to talk myself out of.

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