The importance of Read-Aloud (at school and home)

I recently read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease after seeing Matt Renwick tweet about it several different times. I had it on my list of professional books to read, but he actually mentioned it again to me in a parent to parent conversation when I shared my concerns regarding my son’s animosity for reading. Yes, you read that right…the principal so passionate about reading has a child that does not enjoy reading himself. My son is growing up in a home filled with hundreds of books, is read to for half an hour each night, but fights me on reading himself just like he does eating broccoli. Don’t get me wrong, he does love to be read to (at home and school) his favorite part of school each day is Daily 5 time, he reads to himself at school, and he reads to friends at school during read-to-someone (I even had to witness this myself, because I didn’t believe that he could have such a different disposition at school!)

So after several recommendations from Matt, I read The Read-Aloud Handbook, which reaffirmed my passion for reading and the importance for reading aloud to my children, even though they may be old enough to read on their own.  I would highly recommend this book to any teacher, parent, grandparent, or child caregiver.

The author, Jim Trelease, challenges NCLB legislation and all other attacks on schools for low reading scores with the argument that a child spends 900 hours a year in school and 7,800 hours outside of school and that parents have a bigger influence and more time available for change to occur. By reading aloud to children (at home or school) we:

  • condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • create background knowledge
  • build vocabulary
  • provide a reading model

You can find study after study (many shared in his book) that links student reading interest with higher test scores, parent reading habits with higher test scores, read aloud habits at home with higher test scores, and more cases of students from low SES/minority homes making significant gains and breaking their cycle of poverty when being read to at home (even from parents with little education).  What I found most interesting is that Trelease is NOT an educator. He is just a parent that was very passionate about reading to his kids and as a classroom volunteer, saw the effects of not being read to in other children. He shares tips for parents and teachers in this book about reading aloud, as well as a treasury list of books identified by the grade level child to read aloud to (note-the read aloud level is higher than the level a child could read to themself).  A wealth of information can also be found at Trelease’s website here. 

After reading this book, my only concern is: how do we get this information to the parents that really need it?  Many parents, like myself, that are already reading to their children will certainly enjoy this book and have it encourage and reaffirm reading habits already established at home.  Unfortunately, the parents that do not read to their children or see the value in it, also tend to be the parents that do not (or maybe cannot) read any information that is sent home and do not come to school events or conferences.  What can schools do to try and reach these parents?  This year at our Open House (the night before school) I am planning to have a session in the gym for all parents to come in and I will speak at 3 different times and will include the importance of reading aloud at home. What do other schools do to get this message out and help support parents?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Matt Renwick

    Great questions Jessica, ones I wish I had the answer to. One project we had planned to do with help from a grant was to host a book club with parents using The Read Aloud Handbook. We wouldn’t necessarily read the whole book, just sections relevant to parents. At each discussion, parents would be able to select 5-6 books to take home and share with their kids. At each subsequent book club meeting, they could bring back those books, discuss them with other parents, and swap for others’ books or take home some new ones. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the grant, but there is always next year.

    Good luck with your meetings with parents this fall, an idea I might steal.

  2. Dale Borgeson

    I was thrilled to read your posting about reading aloud to children and about Jim Trelease’s work. I have been fortunate to hear Jim speak twice in person to gatherings here in my district in Temecula, CA. I have advocated reading aloud to the parents of my students for over twenty years. I do my best to convince parents in every parent conference and student study team meeting of the value of this simple practice. The favorite part of my day in my third grade classroom is our read aloud period.

    Another leader in this area is Australian, Mem Fox. I read her book on reading last year and decided to contact her. She is a lovely lady and it was a joy to hear back from her.

    To address your question on how to get the word out, I have created a page on my classroom website devoted to the topic which includes comments from Mem Fox and Jim Trelease after visiting the page.

    This is the single most important thing we can communicate to parents to help improve their child’s performance at school.

    Here is a link to the page on my classroom website:

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