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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy
Getting Started in Early Literacy With Read Aloud
Miriam Bissu

Read aloud is an important part of the day in every early childhood classroom. It affords the teacher an invaluable opportunity to establish an environment for literacy learning to take place in his/her classroom. It enables the teacher to demonstrate a love of books, words, stories, poems, and discovery of new ideas and knowledge. As the teacher reads, he/she models intonation, phrasing, reading with understanding, and making observations, comments, and connections. (S) He invites students to do the same by posing open-ended questions and responding enthusiastically to student responses. Children learn that reading is part of everyday social interaction. Read aloud provides your students with a common experience over which they can bond! They can begin to form friendships based on their discussions and responses to books read aloud in class. Love of reading becomes infectious!

Selecting a Read Aloud:

Read Aloud selections should be slightly above the reading level of the children. Books are chosen for the quality of their writing, age appropriateness, and relevance to the curriculum and literacy needs of the children.

Sharon Taberski's On Solid Ground (Heinemann, 2000) provides some excellent suggestions on how to select Read Alouds to demonstrate specific strategies for whole class instruction. She provides a list of books that can be used to teach these strategies.

I would suggest that all books be previewed for their teaching points. It is helpful to practice reading the books aloud as well. In general, Read Aloud selections teach students to:
  • Listen
  • Read for information
  • Read for enjoyment and pleasure
  • Read for meaning: character, plot, setting, theme
  • Appreciate author's style and use of language
  • Make predictions based on text, knowledge of story, and genre
  • Become social and bond with others
  • Share responses to literature
  • Make connections to literature
  • Refer back to the text to substantiate ideas (accountable talk)
  • Acquire skills and strategies: decoding, cueing systems, and self-monitoring and correcting, using semantic, syntactic and visual cues as required by the text.
  • Connect to other curriculum areas

Modeling Book Talks with Read Alouds:

If children are to learn to bond with others through books and to love reading, they need to learn to talk about books in a thoughtful and enlightened way. Read Aloud is an excellent time to model how people discuss and connect to books.

You might want to choose a book you love and that you think the children will enjoy. Start your lesson by sharing your thoughts and feelings for the book: "I want to read one of my favorite books to you today. I love it because the author.. " Give a reason why you are fond of the book without revealing too much about it. As you read the book, invite children to comment about the text and illustrations. Respond to the text in a natural and excited way yourself. Make comments and ask the children to make predictions at key points in the text. Model for them making predictions based on the text so that they learn to do this early on.

Generate a list of starters for comments on chart paper and hang it in the Read Aloud area. Model them for your students and practice their use.

  • This part reminds me of.
  • This character reminds me of.
  • This author reminds me of.
  • I see a similarity between this book and the author's other book.
  • I remember when something like that happened to me.
  • I always think of ____ when I read this part.
  • My favorite part is when___ because.
  • I love the part when.
  • My favorite part is when the character says.
  • I could really connect to this character because.
  • I could visualize.
  • When I read that part I saw..
  • The author uses words and phrases that created images in my mind.
  • I figured out the setting from the part when the author wrote.
  • The author gave us clues to the characters.
  • I liked when the author.

Some Suggested Titles to Get Started

At the beginning of the school year I like to start a collection of books I enjoy that will help my students adjust to school and make friends with other students in the class. After I finish a book I allow it to be taken home or be shared by two or more students. What follows is a list of some books you might want to use to get started with read aloud.

Miss Nelson is Missing-Harry Allard and James Marshall
Arthur Series-Marc Brown
Hey! Get Off Our Train-John Burningham
Eric Carle books
In the Tall, Tall Grass-Denise Fleming
Barnyard Banter-Denise Fleming
Chrysanthemum-Kevin Henkes
Best Friends for Frances-Russell Hoban
Bread and Jam for Frances-Russell Hoban
Ezra Jack Keats books
Miss Spider's Tea Party-David Kirk
Miss Spider's ABC-David Kirk
Frog and Toad series-Arnold Lobel
Alphabatics-Suse MacDonald
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-Laura Joffee Numeroff
David Goes to School-David Shannon
A Bad Case of Stripes-David Shannon
The Hating Book-Charlotte Zolotow


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