Improving Literacy Skills With Read Alouds
Who doesn’t love a good story? Read alouds are great ways to expose students to literature and help them become better readers. Very young children respond well to books with vivid illustrations and predictable or repetitive patterns. Older students will be drawn to stories with engaging storylines that deal with subjects that match their interests.1
Before you read aloud, take time to select a story that is appropriate for your students’ ages and interests. Read the book ahead of time to anticipate questions students might ask and plan extension activities that students can do after the story. Once you have gathered students to hear the story, spend some time on a pre-reading discussion. By asking some questions related to the story, you help students tap into what they already know about a topic. Point out the cover, author, and illustrator. Students may also enjoy a picture walk—an activity where you flip through the book, look at illustrations, and ask students to predict the story’s plot.
During the story, read with expression, using different voices, pitches, and emphases to bring the characters to life. Pause occasionally to let students look at illustrations and ask questions. You can also model good questioning by saying, “I wonder why . . .” or “This makes me think of . . .” Don’t forget to ask students questions to check for understanding.
After you finish the story, ask students to give their feedback. What did they like about the story? What didn’t they like—and why? This post-reading discussion will encourage students to connect the story to their own lives, other books they have read, and the world around them. The discussion will also improve comprehension and help them get started on any extension activities you have planned.
You can learn more about read alouds in the Afterschool Training Toolkit for Literacy at www.sedl.org/afterschool/toolkits/literacy/pr_read_aloud.html. Click “view video” to watch a video of a read aloud in an afterschool program.
1 These read aloud tips come from the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning’s Afterschool Training Toolkit for Literacy. The literacy toolkit was developed by Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.