Read-Alouds for Older Kids

This semester students in READ 6309 examined components of a strong reading program. As part of their work, they were required to contribute to this blog.

By I. Martinez

Read-alouds are meant to help students in build their vocabulary, add to their storehouse of knowledge, and gain an appreciation of literature. These very same reasons hold true for older students, maybe even more so. Middle school and high school students acquire language and vocabulary suited to their age groups while regaining their love for literature.

In the book Yellow Brick Roads by Janet Allen, the author lists several steps to consider before and during the reading of a text to students, and amongst those steps, she recommends reading the text with passion, or as Maya Angelo states “infusing it with shades of deeper meaning”. I am in total agreement with these statements; however, as most teachers will confess, the reality of maintaining that “passion” by the end of the school day is not likely. Teachers who have four to six classes everyday may have a difficult time maintaining a reading schedule and moreover exuding that love of literature in their strained voices. This is one of the many reasons I am grateful for technology.

Project Gutenberg offers books on audio that are either human read or computer-generated. This is a quick and free resource for teachers, students and parents. Many classic books written by well-known authors like Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe can be found in this section of Project Gutenberg. Also, the corresponding written text to these audio books can be found in the main Project Gutenberg directory. Of course, not all books are copyright free, and therefore do not have a free audio or text option.

A couple of years ago, I undertook the task of reading Rip Van Winkle, a required reading, to several classes of high school seniors. The language itself was a tremendous hurdle for most students and most especially my ESL students. Rip Van Winkle was published in 1819 and reflected the language of the 19th century. I quickly realized that it was going to be a challenge gaining the students’ attention and interest in a story that they had difficulty understanding and relating to. That is when I decided to record my voice on GarageBand and add sound clips to aid their understanding. I have included a sampling of my reading with sound clips.

I am happy to report that the response to the recordings was incredibly positive. The students began requesting that more books be “read” to them in such manner, and everyone hushed and actually listened! It was like the witnessing of a miracle in a high school setting. That is the power of a read-aloud bringing dormancy back to life.

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