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Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Benefits of Reading-Aloud

In my role as Title I Director I help to oversee our important work with our students in mathematics and literacy.  We spend hours identifying the students who need interventions, collecting data to help us best serve their needs, and then assessing their growth based upon these interventions in order to measure our own success in helping our students learn. 
Students are offered strategies for close-reading and writing and they practice answering questions and searching for context clues.  But what about the pure joy of reading?
I recently attended a keynote presentation that featured a topic that mesmerized me.  Lester L. Laminack, Professor Emeritus from Western Carolina University, presented on his book, The Ultimate Read-Aloud Resource.  Professor Laminack shared many ideas throughout his presentation.  He cited the research.  He suggested new strategies.  But the most important thing that he did for us was sharing a simple story.  He just read-aloud from a picture book to a room filled with teachers.
The story he chose to read was a book entitled In November by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Jill Kastner.  Professor Laminack read us the story, and savored every word.  The large auditorium was so quiet that you could hear the flipping of every page.  It was a wonderful book and an even greater experience.  And his point was well-made.
In The Ultimate Read-Aloud Resource, Laminack (2016) writes:
I hear the demands to raise scores in our schools.  I see the impact of the pressure to get more done in less time to meet standards.  And I wonder.  I wonder what we lose when we let go of those small moments…will we       lose the intense natural interest children bring to the worlds of their imagination? (p. 19)
With so many concerned with the “fake news” flooding social media and the picture books written solely to sell toys there has never been a more important time for us to share the great works of art with our students.  I encourage all parents to share the experience of reading-aloud with their children.  This could be in the form of reading a picture book at night or even just taking thirty seconds to share a great line from a novel, movie review, or historical biography.  
For the month of December I will be sharing via Twitter some of the greatest lines from the most amazing stories I have encountered and I encourage everyone in our school community to do the same.  I will use the Twitter hashtag #ReadNR and I hope that we can engage as a community to share those lines from anything that we are reading aloud to our children, encountering in our favorite novels, journals, or newspaper articles.  It could be a line from a picture book or the closing words of a short story.   If you are not on Twitter please email me the line, up to 140 characters, at pdaly@nrpsk12.org and I’ll be happy to post it for you.
My first tweet is from a story I first read in the third grade.  It’s a book with opening and closing lines I’ve committed to memory.  It’s a story I read as a child, and again as a young adult, a college student, a new teacher, and now to my children.  It’s a book that is filled with language that makes me excited about reading.  Here are the final lines of Charlotte’s Web.
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” - E.B. White #ReadNR

You can follow Dr. Daly on Twitter @nrschools

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