Never Too Old for Read Alouds

By Inquiry By Design February 3, 2021 No Comments

Who doesn’t love to hear a good story?

Yet beyond elementary school, children are increasingly unlikely to hear a story read aloud in the classroom or at home. 

While most people are aware of the incredible benefits of reading aloud to young children, parents may feel the need to “push” older children into reading independently. And teachers often feel like it’s an unproductive use of classroom time at best and a step back pedagogically at worst. 

But educator and author Jim Trelease maintains that parents and teachers should continue read alouds through middle and even high school. 

In “A Curriculum Staple: Reading Aloud to Teens,” Jess deCourney explores Trelease’s work The Read-Aloud Handbook and other research in support of reading aloud to older students.

Trelease believes that reading aloud to students beyond the eighth grade is important because these students rarely experience the printed word without an accompanying assignment, creating what he refers to as a “sweat mentality” around books. And the older the student, the more work they are asked to do around reading. Children’s belief that reading for fun is “extremely important” typically drops off after age eight … one more reason why educators need to ramp up their practice rather than pull away. “When you read aloud to anyone, it’s a commercial for the pleasures of reading,” notes Trelease.

No one argues against the benefits of reading aloud to infants, toddlers, and emerging readers. Reading aloud exposes children to new vocabulary, grammatical structures, and descriptions that are lacking in daily speech. In addition, reading aloud gives children access to texts that are beyond their independent reading level, promoting language acquisition, content knowledge, improved comprehension, and cultural literacy. None of these benefits disappear, or even decrease, as kids grow up.

Inquiry By Design’s close reading model typically begins with a read aloud of the chosen text by the teacher. This does several things:

  1. Gives every student, regardless of reading level, the exact same introduction to the text;
  2. Provides a fluent reading by a proficient reader;
  3. Assures that all students are prepared to complete the comprehension tasks that follow; and
  4. Gives students access to a complex text that may be out of reach for many of them individually.