Today I’m hosting Chapter 3 of the Summer Book Study of Jim Trelease’s book The Read Aloud Handbook. Find more details about the book study here with a schedule. Chapter 3 is titled “The Stages of Read-Aloud”. This chapter was full of great information! I will just touch on a few points.
Reading Aloud in Early Childhood
In chapter 3, Trelease talks about the importance of reading aloud to children in early childhood, even (or especially) in infancy. He says, “children hearing the most language will have the best chance of having the best language skills.” He talks about the importance of rhyme in early childhood by frequently using books that rhyme and simple nursery rhyme poems. Rhyming is so important in early childhood, and children who cannot rhyme are likely to have reading problems down the road. In my classroom, we recite nursery rhymes every day, usually during our large group time, but they are also great for transitions, such as while waiting in line or as a time filler.
Building Attention Spans for Story Time
For building attention spans, Trelease suggests varying your voice and using interactive dialogue (asking simple questions during the story for children to respond to). He states, “attention spans are not built overnight – they are built minute by minute, page by page, day by day.” One thing I believe is important for building attention spans as well as getting children hooked on books, is to pay close attention to our book choices at the beginning of the year. Often we as teachers want to choose books on a particular theme at back-to-school time: books about apples or books about going to school. Those books are not always the best books to hook kids at the beginning of the year. My back-to-school books are ones like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, The Lady with the Alligator Purse, Pete the Cat, etc. Those are books that aren’t too long to hold their attention and also hook their interest. We can increase the length of stories later on, as their attention spans grow.
Repetition: The Same Book Over and Over
Trelease suggests reading the same book multiple times because repetition helps children learn language and learn comprehension. I admit I sometimes hesitate to read the same book, even though I know repetition is important, because someone always says, “We read that book already!” I tend to interpret it as a complaint, but it could very well be they just think I don’t know what I’m doing. I have found that when given the choice, children will choose to read a book again.
Building Vocabulary While Reading
Children gain more vocabulary when you read and give explanations of words than if you do not give explanations. I have noticed many children’s books will use a big new vocabulary word and then explain it in the same sentence or the next sentence. When they don’t explain it, I say “that means __” and then we’ll go back to the word at the end of the story and talk about it. I always try to pick at least one new vocabulary word from every book we read that we can discuss. If possible, hand motions when explaining a word seem to be extra helpful for children to retain a new vocabulary word. For example, I seem to have several books in my collection that use the word “enormous” and when we talk about that word, we spread our arms out as big as we can as we say it. I also make sure to explain “book language” to my class – those words that are in books, but not in their everyday conversation, such as sigh, reply, cry (to call out), gasp, etc.
Trelease says, “Discussion after the story is of critical importance, but it doesn’t have to last forever. Reading needs to be a social experience, giving them the chance to share their feelings about the book and its characters.” I agree, always save time at the end to let children talk about the book at least for a little while. I actually allow my class to talk about the book during the story, as long as it is very brief, and we can continue on. Doing that tends to encourage random comments that interrupt the story, so I remind them frequently that if they say something in the middle of a story, it has to be about the story. Think of it like Oprah’s incredibly popular Book Club: people enjoy reading more when they can discuss it.
Finish work early? Read.
In one of the anecdotes in the chapter, Trelease mentioned that a fourth grade teacher had her students read when they finish work. This is something I do in Pre-K as well, even though they are picture-reading. When we do our small groups, my children are told to go look at books when they are done with their activity. They get a book from the Reading Center and lounge on the carpet or on the chairs in the Reading Center. They quickly catch on and know this is what they should always do when they finish. They love this! They would often rather skip small group entirely and just go read books.
I love that he recommends doing a “Red Riding Hood” week, author weeks, picture book series, and chapter books (long picture books or short novels of 60-100 pages).
Trelease says many children benefit from following along with a book as it is read aloud. This includes using an audio book to follow along with text. In my Reading Center, we have books on CD and/or iPod along with the book that children can follow along with. I also like the iPad apps or the books in the iBooks store that allow children to listen and follow along with a book. I think the advantage to apps over CDs is that the voice over story waits until the child has turned the page, so the story doesn’t continue on without the child.
Thanks for joining me today for Chapter 3! You will find Chapter 4 over at Teach Preschool on July 19. You can find more discussions of The Read Aloud Handbook in the Linky below.