One of my favorite parts of every school day is reading aloud to my second graders. I can probably cover more reading skills -- questioning, predicting, drawing conclusions, problem solving, context clues and vocabulary, cause and effect -- in those twenty minutes that I can with an hour of traditional Language Arts instruction. Truth be told, I've pretty much revamped our Language Arts activities to revolve around whatever chapter book we're reading at the time. As far as I'm concerned we could throw the basal readers out the window.
When I was a new teacher, someone recommended reading The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.
Listen, it's a must read for any teacher. Or any parent, for that matter. We all know the importance of reading in a child's life and we all hope that children will love to read independently, but this book focuses on the importance of reading to children of all ages and the positive effects it has. A revised edition of the book comes out in a few months. I've already pre-ordered mine, and I can hardly wait until it gets here.
I thought I'd share a few read alouds that my students and I love.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate di Camillo
This may be my all-time favorite book to read to my students. I almost always save it for the last read aloud of the year, because once you finish it, it's hard to find another one they love as much. This year, though, I jumped the gun and read it in October. It was a selfish move on my part. I missed Edward and the characters he meets. We have Library every other week, and we just happened to have it the week I started reading Edward Tulane aloud to my class. When I picked them up that Wednesday from Library, six of my students had checked it out. I would say that Edward Tulane is ideal to read aloud to second and third graders.
I have a copy to keep at school, and I just ordered one to keep at home. I can't wait to read it to the boys.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate di Camillo
I'm a huge fan of Kate di Camillo. You can't go wrong with any of her books, and Despereaux does not disappoint. Most of the kids have seen the movie, but it is nothing like the book, and I think most children will tell you, after having had the book read aloud to them, they like the book better. I'm going to be one of those parents, in the case of Despereaux, who makes her children experience the book before the movie. And yes, this one is waiting on our bookshelf for the right time to be read to Tater Tot and Small Fry.
** I recommend all of Kate di Cammilo's books. I've read The Magician's Elephant and Because of Winn-Dixie to my classes, and they love both of them. I used Winn-Dixie as a novel study with my higher reading group, and it was wonderful. Right now I'm reading Tiger Rising to Tater Tot, and he's hooked. The chapters are short, usually less than five pages, so it's perfect for holding a six-year-old's attention.
The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl
This is the first chapter book I read aloud to my students each year. My friend, Tricia, put me on to this book over ten years ago when I was teaching at another school, and I absolutely adore it. The BFG uses a vocabulary all his own with words like snozzcumbers (a nasty version of the cucumber), frobscottle (a carbonated drink that makes the bubbles go down, causing one to pass gas rather than burp -- a part of the book that second graders think is hilarious), and whizzpoppers (the name for what we would call passing gas). The BFG is such a sweet and funny story that students fall in love immediately with the gentle giant. Three of my students asked for -- and received -- a copy of the book for Christmas. This is a MUST for any second or third grade teacher or parents of children in those grades.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
When our neice, Caroline, was in the third grade, her teacher read The Chronicles of Narnia to her class, and she was captivated by the stories. I hate to admit that I never read the books as a child, and it was not until Caroline insisted that I read them to my third graders that discovered the magic of the series. I made it through all seven books only once, which was the last year I taught third grade. I think third grade is a great year for these to be read aloud. That being said, I am reading them to my second graders this year. It's taking a while because I have to do a lot of explaining and reviewing, but they are completely entranced. After we finish each book, I give them the choice to pick up with the next book in the series or take a break and read something else for a while. It never fails that all nineteen of them vote to keep going. Right now we're a few chapters into Prince Caspian, and several of them are reading along with me from copies they've checked out from the library.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
This is perhaps my new favorite picture book. It's better suited for older children, probably in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, but I couldn't NOT buy it. I tried reading it to my second graders and it went right over their heads, but I hope they'll read it later on and love it. It's the story of a Masai village who, after hearing from one of their people who was in New York on 9/11, wanted to do something to show their sympathy for a grieving America. This is a great website to give more information about the book and the story behind it.
The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak
The books in The Nutshell Library are ingrained in my memory, and I cannot help but smile when I think of them. My grandparents had the set of little books, and I remember climbing into their laps with One Was Johnny or Chicken Soup with Rice, begging to hear them just one more time. This is a wonderful little collection of stories that every child should have. They're geared more toward preschoolers and kindergarteners, but I've been known to whip them out as a special treat for my older students, and they love the stories.
Experts will tell you to read books aloud to your children that are about two levels above their own reading level. You'll see their vocabulary and listening comprehension skills take off!
But here's the thing. It's not so much what's being read as it is that children are being read to every day.
See you around next time. There are a couple of little boys who are waiting patiently with their bedtime books.