We want your stories

If a child gets through elementary school having learned just one thing, to love to read, I believe that that education has been a success.

And one of the best ways, perhaps the best way, to help a child learn to love to read, is to read to them.

But reading aloud does so much more than teach love of reading, as shown by the comments posted here.

Did your teacher read aloud to you?

Are you a teacher who reads aloud to your students?

Tell your stories here. Post them in the comment section.

Every story is a thank you to those who read aloud.

And every story is an inspiration and motivation to those who should be reading aloud.

Please add your name and your occupation to your story.

And spread the word.



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64 responses to “We want your stories

  1. Rick Walton

    I taught elementary school for a couple of years, fifth and sixth grade. I did a lot of things wrong, but there is one thing that I definitely did right. I read to my students a half hour to an hour every day. I read them a little bit of everything–science fiction, mysteries, humor, poetry, short stories, anything I thought might hold their attention. One of my goals was simply to have a period of time during the day when classroom management, which I was not very good at, was not an issue. I had discovered early that when I read to kids they were quiet and well behaved. But the main reason I read to them was because I believed that if I exposed them to a wide range of literature, somewhere they would discover and fall in love with a genre, an author, something that would make them lovers of reading.

    I had one experience that made clear to me the power of reading aloud. One of the books I read to the class was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I had one student who was a reading resource kid. During our normal language arts times he would go to the resource room. There he would get basic help in reading. When I began reading Ender’s Game, the student got his father’s copy of the book and read along. And after we were through reading, he got his father’s copy of the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, a fairly sophisticated book, not particularly easy reading, and he read it on his own.

    Rick Walton
    Children’s Book Author

  2. When I taught elementary school in Oneida, NY, I read aloud every day. The books were way over the reading level of my kids, but not way over their listening level. Many years later, when kids get in touch with me, they always tell me that what they remember most is my reading aloud. They each cite a different book that made a difference in their lives (The Secret Garden, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, etc.) All of my very best teachers, right through graduate school, read aloud. I believe it’s the single most important act we can do to get beautiful words, all strung in the right order, in the hearts and minds of kids (and adults, too!)

  3. I have always been a good reader – drama club and all that – but one summer I took a graduate class in language arts, after having taught for two years, in which we were required to read and comment on children’s books. But the joy of it all was that our instructor, a lecturer named Linda Lamme, read her favorites aloud to us. Every word from her mouth was a texture of volume and color and nuance. I still remember the thrill of hearing her reading IRA SLEEPS OVER by Bernard Waber, packing extra power into the sister’s refrain, “He’ll laugh.” Looking back, I think that was a turning point for me. The words so delighted her – delighted us – I wanted to be able to do that – to write something that someone found delicious on their tongue. It took me several years from that time to become a full-time writer, but my days as an elementary classroom teacher were numbered from that moment on and I am so grateful to her for giving me a taste of possibilities. (Linda & I have since been in touch and I’ve told her all this. She is now a professor at the University of Florida, College of Education in Gainesville, FL)

    Alexis O’Neill
    Children’s Book Author

  4. My mom used to read out loud to us when I was little, usually before bed. I was kind of a lazy student and had a wandering mind, but she helped me love books. I learned how to focus on stories, which also influenced me to become a better student all around. My mom even read on long road trips, since that was in the dark ages, before DVDs or CDs. She always brought along a children’s novel to pass the time.

    Now as a mom, I read to my own children every night. It’s exciting to see them become interested in something we read, or ask in-depth questions about things that piqued their curiosity. We also listen to books on CD in the car, and it’s fun to watch their imaginations at work on long drives.

    Gaylene Wilson

  5. I’m a BYU student right now. I’m also a wildland firefighter and a writer.
    I can remember my 2nd grade teacher reading the Boxcar Children books out loud to my class and my nose started bleeding, but I was so into the story that I didn’t want to leave so I just clamped my fingers over my nose and hoped no one would notice so I didn’t have to leave. I read probably every Boxcar Children book that existed, and sometimes when I got too tired to look at the page but I really wanted to finish the book I would have my mom read the last couple chapters to me.

    A lot of my teachers read out loud to my classes, and it was my favorite time in class. Even now in college I love it when teachers read stories out loud. It really helps me to hear something, especially if I can read along because I’m an audio-visual learner. Now, in college I often read my homework out loud because it helps me remember more.

    I don’t remember too much about my elementary school days, but I do remember every book that my teachers read out loud. I think it’s a great way to teach because it gets kids excited about stories, and it can be a real motivator for kids to read on their own too. It’s also great because every kid learns a different way, and using a variety of learning techniques can benefit both students and teachers (because students learn better, and teachers can figure out how individual students learn the best).

  6. Allison Madsen

    In 5th grade my teacher read to us everyday after lunch. Those books are some of my favorites from my childhood. I am a librarian now and I love being able to share books with children alone or in a group.

  7. My teacher read to me and when I got home I read big books with my Dad. I thought he asked me to read with him so that he would know how well I was doing. I never knew until latter in life that he had never learned to read and that he learned right along with me. We both turned into avid readers.
    I in turn read to my children. I remember reading Robin Hood to the 8-yr old. I thought the 4-yr old laying beside him was sleeping but one night in one of the more exciting parts the little one popped up, eyes bright, and made some comment that proved he knew exactly what was going on.
    Today, he reads to his children. His oldest child’s reading level has always been far ahead of her class.

  8. I usually taught what I called the “academically uninvolved” and reading aloud to my high school students near the end of the class period was “dessert” that helped with discipline. “Let’s work 10 more minutes and then we’ll finish reading that chapter we started yesterday.”

    When I moved to the college level I taught a course with the catchy name “READING, ENGLISH, & LANGUAGE ARTS: METHODS FOR SECONDARY STUDENTS WITH MILD TO MODERATE DISABILITIES.” Teachers in the master’s program in special education at Johns Hopkins University were required to spend an evening with me every Monday. Tired from a day of teaching, they trudged into my classroom. Reading a sample each week at the beginning of class (no discipline problems with JHU students!) from a variety of books, from picture books for older students to the best in young adult literature helped them relax and forget the day’s events in their own classrooms.

    One semester, I quietly decided perhaps we should get right down to work. By week two, the complaints were strong. “But we heard you’re the professor who reads to us” was the tenor of the chorus. I picked up a book and never stopped beginning class with a well-chosen passage or poem. I wonder if it carried over to their classes? I hope so.

  9. I used to have teachers read us stories, and I liked it so much, I get to do the same thing.

    I’m a school custodian of 22 years and a children author for five, in Concord, Ca.

    Since I work at a school I get to test my stories first-before I put them out

    • Wonderful, William! I’ll bet your field-tested books are fabulous! Nobody knows children better than a school custodian. I still remember ours. He was named Mr. Lee, and he doubled as a bus driver for long field trips. On a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm when I was in fifth grade, I didn’t have quite enough money for an all-day sucker I wanted to buy for my little sister at home. Mr. Lee loaned me a dime, so I could get it for her. When he died several years later, there was not enough room in the church to hold all of the people who came-most of them students like me, who remembered him as a caring and supportive friend.

  10. Becky Hall

    I have been in education for 35 years. As a classroom teacher, I always read to my class. It was my and my students’ favorite time of day, and sometimes we had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the book. I loved reading so much that I became a librarian where I now can spread the word every day all day long.

    One special fifth grade group comes to mind. We had literary discussions and became a reading community. I read aloud to them. They shared their books and we felt like we at book club almost every day. Those students still return and talk about what a great reading year that was.

  11. Elizabeth

    I’m a librarian who does not enjoy reading. I never have. However, I enjoy picture books, and once each semester I am invited to a college level Children’s Literature class to talk about them in all their glory. I begin each class by reading a new picture book. The students are mainly juniors in college, though there are always non traditional students. At the end of almost every class someone comes to me in tears because they had forgotten what it was like to be read to. It brings them back to a more serene place and time, they are delightfully lost in the words and images. It probably does not change their lives, but it does change their outlook at least for that day.

    • Robben


      In practicing my homework help skills in libraries, many studens have come to me to request my reading to them in Spanish.
      One RIF Lesson Plan that I matriculated into a lesson for my literacy class, included reading the first fifteen pages of Walt Whitman’s Song to myself.
      The response rom my student’s helped to articulate their curiosity with American English Studies, so that they felt that we speak the same feelings in our individual voices. That gave precedence and power to a leaner’s acquisition.
      Than we held interviews with cue cards that gave us clarity on th recitation, and publication of this famous autobiographical epic poem.

  12. Charmayne

    In grade school our teacher read to us twice a day, after we came in from recess. It was my favorite part of the day. I loved that our teacher read to us and will be forever grateful that she did. For one thing, it made books accessible to me that were too hard to read on my own, and encouraged a larger love of reading. I remember those times as a kind of warm, bonding moment for the entire class. It made me feel like she genuinely like us even though she was rather stern the rest of the time.

  13. I believe that being read to makes all the difference. It fosters a love of story and it makes you smarter. There’s no downside.

    When I was in elementary school, my favorite time of the day was when the teacher read to us. That’s when everyone got quiet, and there was no noise except the teacher’s voice. Sometimes, if we were really really good, we could get her to read another chapter. I still remember all those books, and sometimes I even go back and reread them. It’s comfort food in a book!

    I know it had an impact on my chosen profession. I write the kind of books I loved to read as a child: funny books, sometimes with a little magic in them.

    I also work with a non-profit early literacy organization, MAKE WAY FOR BOOKS. Children who are not read to before kindergarten, children who arrive in kindergarten not knowing what a book is for or even how to hold it–these children are deprived. We have volunteers who fan out all over the city, providing story times to young children in preschools and childcare centers. It truly makes a difference and will impact the rest of their lives in a positive manner.

  14. Going my entire life as a GIRL with severe ADHD before it had a name, reading time was painful. My Kindergarten teacher had wisdom beyond her years, and allowed me to step off the huge, braided rug all the children were required to sit upon. While she read, I was given free reign of the classroom, and so could sit under the crafting table pretending to be a vegetable under the ground, or lay across the piano bench as a sacrificial ram. I quietly constructed jets and sailing ships to ride with the huge wooden blocks (they were two sizes: 2′ x 1′ x 6″ and squares of 1′ x 1′ x 6″ and hollow) while we all listened to her magical stories like The Purple Crayon and The Carrot Seed. To this very day I can recite every word Miss Smith ever uttered, and I bless her name. Had I been forced onto that rug with the others, we would have ALL been miserable, and nobody would have enjoyed reading time.

    My mother read ALL the Little House on the Prairie books aloud to us, but by then I was nine or ten, and they seemed so repetitive, slow and boring. I honestly couldn’t stand it. I would slide off the side of the bed and slink off to my own room for A Wrinkle In Time or some C. S. Lewis.

    Reading to my own children was a joy, and even when my boys were in their late teens, they still enjoyed reading Fablehaven together. We all took turns reading out loud. Reading the series aloud was the only sure way someone would not be left out, as I only purchased one book. We would all then be on the same page, and could discuss and conjecture over it at the dinner table.

    When I taught, I brought my experience to the classroom, making sure everyone was on board with the books we read. Fortunately for me and my students, Harry Potter had just been published, and all were satisfied.

  15. Jacquelyn Imrich

    I can remember the joy and fascination of being read to by my mother as a young child. Because I loved it so, I started watching the letters in the words and listening to their sounds so that I could read stories myself. I taught myself to read before I entered Kindergarten and read avidly from then on.

    In sixth grade, my favorite teacher, Mrs. Essick, would read to us every day after lunch. I loved hearing the words that ushered me into another time and place. One of my favorite book that she read was Johnny Tremain and it initiated my love of history and how persons can make a difference in the time in which they live.

    As an elementary teacher of grades 1 through 8, I read to all the kids, sharing my love of books in this personal way. I found it did for them what it had done for me–introduce them to the greatness of ideas, the beauty of language, and wisdom. I particularly liked what it did for first graders who, often for the first time, discovered their own personal power in sharing literature with me. Many became excellent critics of what they heard and offered story ideas for me to tell. Some of those ideas I have to this day in my list of writing projects for chldren’s books.

    I also marvelled at how reading to seventh and eighth graders worked just as well. They, too, felt this personal touch with a book penetrated their inner being and empowered them. We had great fun with the classics! As a retired teacher, I encourage all teachers, librarians, assistants in the classroom, parents and relatives et al to read to kids. Not only will their lives be enriched, but their language art skills and self-confidence, as well. (In the college extension class I taught for teachers on How to Build Self-Confidence in Kids from the first day of the school to the last, reading to kids was one of the important suggestions.) It is intense, focused attention that persons need to feel valuable and capable. It may be only minutes of one’s time, but those minutes are enough to change a life.
    –Jacquelyn Imrich

  16. Growing up my mom and dad read aloud to us every night. Many times my mom readjusting the story especially if it was a book she read over and over again. Fond memories that we have done with our own children.

    Children’s Author
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  17. In the fifth grade, I remember my teacher, Ms. Peck, reading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews to us. I couldn’t wait to go to school each day to hear what was going to happen next. It had such a positive effect on me, I actually just ordered it so I can read it to my children.

  18. Katharine Wright

    Oh my gosh–5th grade! The teacher started reading us Edgar Allen Poe. She started us out on The Telltale Heart and worked up to more & more macabre wonders. Often she had to stop and explain things to us–vocabulary, plot twists–and it was a thrilling education in language and image and human psychology. I’ll never forget it.

  19. Jacqueline Seewald

    As a child, my mother would always read to me. She loved books and passed the appreciation on to me. I fondly remember my school librarian reading books to us as well.
    It’s not surprising that I became a teacher and eventually a school librarian/educational media specialist. During the years that I worked in an elementary school, I very much enjoyed reading to books to the children. The only problem was that every child then wanted to take out the book I had read to the group. Small children soon learn to love books and reading if adults show them the way.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    author of STACY’S SONG–a YA coming of age novel

  20. Wanda Snow Porter

    When I was in fifth grade, to help settle us down after running wild on the playground during lunch recess, our teacher would read to the class for about fifteen or twenty minutes. She let us vote on the book we wanted her to read. A horse crazy girl, I loved listening to Alec’s adventures with the coal black stallion. So did the rest of my fifth grade class for we always voted for one of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books. Maybe those Black Stallion books encouraged my lifelong love for horses and reading and inspired me to write. I’m not sure, but they certainly were entertaining. The Black Stallion books are still in print. I’m going to read them again. I’m sure I’ll enjoy them as much as I did in fifth grade.

  21. All through elementary school, my teachers read to me. Every one. At home, my parents read to us. Mom read to us after lunch every day during the summer. She read THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS and THE HORSE WITHOUT A HEAD and JOHNNY TREMAIN, among other books. Dad read snippets of newspaper and magazine articles that he found interesting. He’d come in to the kitchen where my sisters and brother and I would be doing homework or washing the dishes and say, “Hey, listen to this!” He’d pull out a chair and read aloud.

    When I became a teacher, I read aloud to my students every single day. How else could I convey my passion for books? I read poetry and fiction, non-fiction, essays, articles, picture books. I’d read with expression. I’d stop at exciting parts and say, “What do you think will happen next?” I’d stop at unknown words and we’d look them up together. Reading aloud time was the best time of the day for many of my students.

    Now that I write children’s books, I read my manuscripts aloud. It’s my hope and expectation that teachers and parents will want to read them aloud to children, so every word must be fun to say. They must trip off the tongue. They must taste good in your mouth. Books are magic. Reading aloud is magic.

  22. Laura Card

    I usually read aloud to my children in the afternoon. It was something we all looked forward to. One afternoon, with my five-year-old on my left and my three-year-old on my right, I was reading a picture book out loud. I paused to turn the page and my three-year-old kept right on reading. I said, “How long have you been able to read?” She just shrugged and said, “A long time.” Somehow being able to see the words while I read them to her, helped her learn to read. Since reading was such a huge part of our daily routine, it had an impact on our family’s ability to read and write. All of my children are now excellent writers.

  23. Deborah Nourse Lattimore

    Many people read aloud to me, from the Beverly Hills Children’s Librarians and great elementary school teachers, to friends and acquaintances. But it is my grandmother reading to me from adult books, The Orient and the Occident by Richard Halliburton,
    I Married Adventure by Una Martin, and then Paddle-to-the-Sea (H.C.Hollings) and Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street (L.Politi), Ben and Me (Robert Lawson’s ink!) that really got to me; history. One biography she read to me was the life of Papa Haydn. After several chapters, she would then play the music of Haydn on a phonograph. With Pedro, she took me downtown to Olvera Street, in Los Angeles, where the story took place. And she always allowed me to ask questions right in the middle of the story, no matter how many times she’d already read it to me. History, Adventure, Photographs of far-away places, some of them just downtown—all of them very real, and Illustrations by people who most obviously loved to paint was my world, growing up. She read to me from a book on art history about the Taj Mahal, the first words I learned to write! And in Taj and Mahal were a world. Reading aloud is even more than magic; it excites the soul in rapid harmony with heart, mind and curiosity and it lasts a lifetime.

  24. ‘I felt empathy for Jack …Anger & sadness touched my heart.’ Jordyn 11 years old.

    Reading aloud to kids can emotionally engage kids & parents so they feel the story. Jordyn’s email to me after hearing ‘I Am Jack’ stayed with him. He will read and re-read ‘I Am Jack’ as kids do, when a story resonates with them. Reading aloud gives kids a wonderful gateway to books.

    As a children’s and young adult author who speaks at conferences, festivals & schools, read aloud to kids and make a difference .

  25. Pingback: Tweets that mention We want your stories | Why Read Aloud? -- Topsy.com

  26. It looked like the Alamo, a two story adobe brick school where we were sure us seventh graders had gone to die. The science teachers packed two foot long paddle boards with holes drilled in them to cut down on wind interference as they paddled the behinds of miscreants in front of the whole class. When the bell rang for lunch, the whole school bolted to the east towards the lunch room and my seventh grade body slammed head first into the belt buckle of a west heading ninth grade boy who glanced down like a flea speck had hindered his progress. It was a world where you knew you would forget your schedule, locker comb or to take off your short pajama bottoms before you put on your dress and left home for school.
    A speck of light in this dreary first week at the Alamo was Mrs. Hughes, a 4 foot nothing, white haired English teacher who greeted her room full of seventh graders with a smile and no paddle in site.
    “It’s strange indeed how memories can lie dormant in a man’s mind for so many years. Yet those memories can be awakened and brought forth fresh and new, just by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve heard, or the sight of an old familiar face.”

    Mrs. Hughe’s voice warbled but held us mesmerized and on the second story of that junior high school the walls disappeared and were replaced with coons and dogs and a young boy’s heart. She held us captive with the words and story from “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls. It was a time of total quiet except for her voice. Our mind saw the pictures and the story unfold. When the end of the book came I swallowed hard and saw tears in eyes of fellow students. We had walked that book together with the help of Mrs Hughes. And in my young seventh grade heart, I knew I could experience life and walk out into those halls and run towards the lunch room and beyond.
    Sherry Meidell

    • Rebecca BArnrum

      Some of my most treasured memories come from the times when I would read “Where the Red Fern Grows” aloud to my 4th and 5th grade students in Memphis, TN and Little Rock, AR. We were all transported far away to a world which few in those urban settings had ever experienced. I always had to hand over my well worn copy to a student when my own tears kept me from continuing. Every fall, my new students would want to know when I would start reading that selection, and I hope it is a tradition that some of them still pay homage to today; I do with my own children.

      Thank you for your comment. It made a connection with me.

  27. When I was twelve years old I became sick and my doctor prescribed complete bed rest and absolute immobility. I was away from school for two months. During those two months, every late afternoon, my mother would come sit by my bed and read to me. Those were some of the most memorable days of my life.

    She read to me stories from a classical novel written in the Urdu language. I was transported to a different world and relished every word of the stories. The stories were about an extended family, the day to day conflicts that arose , and the joy and satisfaction when conflicts were resolved within a tolerant, considerate and caring environment maintaining the dignity of each individual. I remember waiting all day for the late afternoon when my mother would come and read the stories to me.

    What I gained from the stories was tremendous. I learned to value the family, love and appreciate relationships within a family, be tolerant of one another and maintain dignity at all levels. I believe that some of the skills I learned from those stories still help me in my family life.

    What I gained from my mother reading to me was a feeling of closeness, a mother-daughter closeness, that still gives me strength and protection though my mother is no more.

    As a teacher I have read to my class and know from the expressions on the faces of my students that they are absorbing what they are hearing. It helps them to focus and gives them skills they would miss out if they weren’t read to.

    A teacher becomes a friend through story reading and that is indeed a great gain for both the student and the teacher.

  28. After a particularly energetic play date with my toddler grandsons recently, one stopped, picked up a book, and crawled onto my lap. His brother then went to the shelf, grabbed a pile of his favorites, and fought for his own knee space. Poor Buzz Lightyear was left blinking on the floor for a full 30 minutes, while these 2 boys sat mesmerized by pictures and words.

  29. Ken Kilback

    I’ve been teaching Kindergarten for over 13 years now and I have obviously always read aloud. When a reader, such as a teacher, believes in the story that’s being read, then something magical happens with the listeners. The listeners are enveloped in the story and carried along on a journey that is transformational to both reader and listener in some way.
    Every year I read a book to my class that is about Terry Fox. While the picture book itself is actually for Grades 2 and higher, I still make use of it for my Kindergarten class. There are lots of point of discussion and the children realize how important the story is and they are always captivated by what they learn about Terry Fox. One year when I read the story, something very special happened. A group of boys were so excited about the story of Terry Fox that they kept telling each other the story about him for the rest of the school year and they also stopped calling Canada by its actual name. One day, one kindergarten boy was showing several other students a map of Canada. He said to these students, “See. This is Terry Fox Land.”
    I also used to teach a creative writing class in summer school; the class was for children in grades 1 through 3. One of my favourite read-aloud stories is Jez Alborough’s “Watch Out, Big Bro’ is Coming!” In the book, several animals have misinterpreted information and think that Big Bro’ is some horrible monster. When they realize he’s just a mouse, they laugh, but Big Bro’ still manages to scare them. As I reach the big “Boo” point in the story, I always tell the kids that I can’t read any more because the rest of the story is too scary. Of course, they want to hear the rest of the story, but I keep on insisting they’ll be terrified. In the end, I agree to read it and then let out a huge “Boo” to scare them. When I did that to that particular creative writing summer school group, everyone jumped high in the air and then laughed. But what touched my heart the most is what a grade 3 girl wrote to me a few weeks later on the last day of summer school. She thanked me for scaring her with that story.

  30. Deborah Fletcher Blum

    I was read to as a child by my mother, my father, my grandmother, teachers and friends’ parents. My mom read to us before bed until I was twelve. The last book was Jane Eyre, which I never would have read myself at that age. I think hearing this and poems read by my father — Wordsworth and Keats — increased my vocabulary and helped my writing tremendously.
    I always scored very high on English tests in school, was in the highest track (in Santa Monica public schools) and attended Brown University.
    I vividly remember my friend’s father reading The Lion and The Witch in the Wardrobe to us. I read so much on my own that by 5th grade, the teachers warned my parents to not let me read while walking down the street, because I might get in an accident, since I had become one of those kids who could not put down a book.
    When I “grew up,” I trained to be Waldorf teacher and taught in Waldorf schools in the U.S. and abroad. I read to my students when I was teaching reading. I loved reading to them and they loved listening. I can not remember what stories I read but they were stories that some of them would want to read themselves later.
    I have two daughters, I read to both. Both have above average language skills, excellent vocabulary and communication and are avid readers. My oldest will graduate from college this year as an English major. I remember the last book I read aloud to her was Harry Potter, the 1st book. After that, she read them on her own.
    I strongly believe that reading to kids is one of the most important aids to language development AND if kids are not read to at home, then the teachers MUST do it!

  31. Tiffany Dominguez

    My elementary school years are a little fuzzy now, but I do remember one wonderful teacher who loved Roald Dahl. She read to us Matilda and Boy. I was horrified, intrigued and delighted at the same time. How I looked forward to those afternoons she had us sit on the carpet while she read aloud to us!

  32. I LOVE listening to the audio CD’s in the car – where story is read out aloud – it is my favourite time. My children have always listened to stories as we drive and they have developed a love of books. It is another way of reading aloud.

    Enjoying ‘To kill A Mocking Bird’ on audio is a stand out!!!!!

  33. When you’re 9 there’s not much you have control over – meals, bedtime, homework, the long walk to and from school. It actually feels like your life is a big long stretch of doing what you are told, no matter what. And kids of 9 carry a huge burden. They have the hugest imagination of anyone. They wonder about everything.

    When I was 9, I wondered what it would be like to be a boy. I wished I could try it out for a few hours or a day. I wanted to talk to animals, really understand them. And I wanted to fly.

    All of these dreams were realized when Mrs. Hawkins pulled her tall wooden stool to front of the class room, perched upon it and opened THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN by E.B. White.

    She read and I became a boy (Sam Beaver). While Mrs. Hawkins words washed over me, I could talk to a swan named Louis. Not only talk with him, join him on his quest. And Louis’ quest is everyone’s quest – he had to find his voice (don’t we all?), discover the best way to show his love and he struggled to stay safe in a world that was often dangerous.

    I don’t remember much about 4th grade. Did Mrs. Hawkins teach us long division? Did we make maps of the world? I bet we studied the Nile (we seemed to study it every year in elementary school). Honestly, I didn’t remember the name of my 4th grade teacher, so, last night I sent a text to an old friend.

    She wrote: Mrs. Hawkins. Yeah, Louis the swan with the slate and the trumpet. I cried in class when she read it. (Thank you, C.S.)

    That’s something I remember. I cried too.

    Mrs. Hawkins, I’m sorry for forgetting your name. And I’m sorry if I don’t remember the subjects we studied that year. But I know one thing for certain. Each day when you perched up on that tall stool and opened the book it was like you took the entire class in your arms, brought us to Canada and introduced us to Louis. Reading THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN aloud was the best lesson you could have taught.

    It helped me to find my voice. And to find my way in the world.

    Angela Cerrito decided at the age of 12 that she wanted to be a physical therapist. 12 years later she’d earned her master’s degree in physical therapy. She is a physical therapist working with infants, children and their parents and loves every second of it. She also writes for children. Her debut novel THE END OF THE LINE will be published by Holiday House in March.

  34. Sharon Levin

    One of my favorite memories is of my then 3 year old daughter sitting on a chair in front of her preschool class. She had a picture book in her hands and she ‘read’ each page, then would hold it open and slowly move it across the group, just as her teachers and librarians had done with her (of course I read to her all the time too, but I didn’t have to hold the book open for a group). It was wonderful to see and even more wonderful were the kids who sat and listened, loving being told a story.
    I just served two years on the Notable Children’s Recordings for ALA and let me say how delightful it was to be ‘read aloud to’ even at my advanced years. 🙂

  35. My two-year-old granddaughter Francie was having a bad day. She couldn’t play outside because it was raining. She couldn’t have a cookie because she hadn’t finished her lunch. She couldn’t take a nap while listening to music because her CD player was broken. Then, when she woke up, she couldn’t have a snack because she’d slept longer than usual and it was too close to dinner. So she decided to do the one thing she could do: throw a temper tantrum.

    While she was lying on the floor kicking her arms and legs I asked her if she wanted to read a book. “NO!” she cried. Knowing how much she loves to be read to, I grabbed her favorite book, Five Little Ducks; An Old Rhyme illustrated by Pamela Paparone, and sat down to read it aloud. After about 10 seconds the yelling stopped, but as soon as I looked at her, she began crying again. So I just kept reading. As long as I was reading, she was quiet, but as soon as I looked up, she’d start crying again.

    When I was finished, I told her that I was going to read the story again. “It sure would be nice to have someone to cuddle with,” I said. All of a sudden, Francie leapt off the floor and into my lap, smiling and laughing as though the tantrum had never happened. This time we read the book together, and when we finished, Francie said, “I love you grandmom.”

    I have five grandchildren under the age of six, and although they are all different, they all love to be read to. I believe that reading to young children is one of the most powerful things a parent, grandparent or caregiver can do to enhance a small child’s live.

    Joan McCoy
    President, Little One Books

  36. My mother read to my brother and myself every day, and we both became writers. My father was in the Air Force and we moved frequently. Dad would go ahead and find our next house. If we weren’t living on base, he always looked for one that was near the library.

    I ran a literacy program at the Redwood City Library called the Traveling Storytime. Volunteers brought a half hour storytime once a week to preschool children who couldn’t come to the storytimes at the library because they were in child care. We did an assessment of the effectiveness of the program on 4 year olds who had been read to for at least six months. An earlier, county wide survey of kindergartners in their first month of school had found only 40% were proficient in engaging with books. I and a co-worker tested for engagement with books by giving each child a bag with two books in it. He or she were to choose one and share it with us. Taking the book out of the bag, instead of being handed it, revealed if the child knew how to hold a book correctly as they chose which side was up. Sharing it showed if s/he knew how to open it, where the book began, left/right directionality and if they interacted positively with the book. 92% of our preschoolers were proficient in engaging with books–doing everything so easily it appeared instinctive, so happy to be handling the book that had been read to them earlier in the day.

    The most memorable part for me was when a child who had been in one preschool for less than a week was sent in to be assessed by mistake. She sat there smiling at us with the book upside down on her lap because she had no idea which side was up or that it opened. There were still four months before she was going to begin kindergarten, so she’d have time to learn those skills before she started school, but that showed so clearly that handling a book is not instinctive, and if a child isn’t born into a family that reads to her and in front of her, someone’s got to do it, and the earlier the better.

  37. Breastmilkmuses

    I am a teacher and I always have my students read out loud. The reason why is because I noticed that the mistakes they say out loud are the same ones they make when reading to themselves. Hearing their mistakes allows for me to better identify their reading strengths and weaknesses and ways to address them. Reading out loud also creates a sense of pride for students.

  38. We can never say too much about the benefits of reading to a child. For me, though, reading to my baby has never been just about what it does for her – it has always been about how much pleasure and joy I derive out of it. Reading to my baby is by far the most enjoyable experience my daughter and I share. It’s hard to tell sometimes who enjoys it more. I grew up surrounded by books and grown-ups who told stories at the drop of a hat and sharing books with my baby just seemed so natural from the day she was born. Besides all the emotional, intellectual and social benefits that reading aloud has on kids, there are many, many wonderful benefits for the person who is reading to a child – lower stress, physical rest, intellectual stimulation, sparked imagination and so much more…some of those aspects are highlighted in this post http://babylovesbooks.com/2009/10/06/reading-to-your-baby-whats-in-it-for-you/. It’s not surprising why reading aloud to babies and kids has such a significant impact on their future – after all, sound is the very first element one is exposed to, even before birth, and the medium through which knowledge has been transmitted for many a millennium. Before there were texts, or writing or print or inscriptions…there was sound – vibration – knowledge. We have always had the ability to absorb information through sound. And it is that fundamental ability that we tap into when we read aloud to a child.

  39. My son has been a “reluctant reader” for many years. His attention wanders, he gets unfocused, and he doesn’t retain what he’s reading. There was one cure. Reading together and aloud was what worked.

    We read “Boomtown” by Nowen N. Particular, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” by Roald Dahl, “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” and “North! or Be Eaten” by Andrew Peterson, and many other books.

    He’s now reading “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone” by himself, and we talk about it afterward. But it took those years of reading aloud and together to make it click.

  40. Dezra Despain

    There are so many instances of reading aloud that have affected me in a variety of circumstances; grade school teachers reading Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” with the lights out and windows shaded, mother reading “The Wizard of Oz” sporadically throughout the week until Dorothy made it home, me reading “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub” to my children while sitting in the bathtub (with them), to name just a few. But the instance that remains with me with lasting effect is when I read “A Dark Dark Tale” to my daughter when she was almost two years old.

    I love adding other sensory details when reading to my children and one that is most effective is music. So I put on Alan Parson’s Project “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” turned out the lights, lit a candle, and gathered my two children to listen and turn the pages of the book with me. If you know the book, you know that you venture through “dark dark” scenes through the eyes of a cat and in the end surprise the inhabitant. My daughter was sitting in my lap mesmorized by the pictures and the music and the story. As each page built up the suspense, so did the music. I realized that the climax of the book and the shocking climax of the music could be coordinated so I slowed down the reading just a bit as the momentum in the music gathered. Then, as the music burst into its resolution, the cat jumped and my daughter jumped out of my lap.

    For days after that shocking moment my daughter carried that book with her and would not let it go. She slept with it. And if she set it down she always knew where it was and would return to it. She kept coming to me (and to anyone who would listen to her) hugging the book and saying, “Andthekitty andthekitty andthekitty andthekitty….” then she’d take a deep breath, “JUMPED.” She was so amazed and awe-struck. I had to read it to her over and over after that. She couldn’t get enough of it.

    The reason this instance is the most memorable to me is because not long after that she died. And of all the memories I have of her, the memory of reading a story that had a powerful affect on her is the one that makes me smile the most.

  41. I can still see the faces of the boys in juvenile hall in San Francisco. I was there for an author visit. We had just finished up a writing exercise and they had read their pieces out loud. Before I left, I read them a story from one of my teen-written anthologies. The room was very quiet, and they looked up at me as if they were a gathering of little boys. They couldn’t get enough of it.

  42. Jeanine Asche

    My 5th grade teacher, Mr. Jared, read to me and my 30 or so classmates every day. The books he chose were usually Newbery award titles or other books of merit and the two I remember specifically some 45 years later are Call it Courage and Rascal. As an adult now I must admit that I can certainly enjoy a good trashy novel with the best of them, but I can’t go too long without a book of quality and I credit my Mr. Jared for giving me my thirst and my craving for the exceptional. Growing up in a home with a single mother on welfare who seldom read to me, I believe I have Mr. Jared to thank for the wide range of literature I’ve enjoyed and my exposure to the thoughts and ideas beyond my small town, small family, and limited life experiences world. The fact that I became a librarian must be attributed at least in part to this daily read aloud time, too. I ran into Mr. Jared about 12 years ago. I was able to tell him I was a librarian and how I thought his reading to our class contributed to that. He seemed pleased and I hope it made his day. His reading time with me during my 5th grade year made my life.

  43. I remember my Year 6 teacher reading to us. Mostly it was Paul Jennings, which was taboo, because my mother didn’t like me reading those books. But then there was Midnite, the story of a bumbling Australian bushranger and his many interesting, talking animals. His reading of it was legend, and I now have two copies of it in my classroom library – sharing the love of a great book with my own students (‘s not funny is everyone’s favourite line)

    I read to my students because it gets them interested. I’ve read CHERUB and The Hobbit, books about Afghanistan and the second world war. I’ve read books about children with ASD and students whose teachers make them read Shakespeare. Reading to students has developed a shared language in the classroom. We make jokes about magic rings and feathers on backsides. We relate real world events to a book we all understand.

  44. Laura

    I have taught 3rd and 4th for 20 years and have always read aloud. Reading aloud is a great community builder. Kids not only have discussion with each other about read aloud outside of read aloud time. They also try things from our read loud like not talking for a day from NO TALKING by Andrew Clements. Read aloud exposes kids to books that are above their level and helps them branch out into new genres. Read aloud is a great place to demonstrate reading strategies like visualizing, predicting, inferring, and building background. We have lots of great discussions about our read alouds.

  45. My post about the power of read aloud is here (along with some stories in the comments):


  46. Dorothy Fox

    Always read, Number The Stars, Lois Lowry to my 5th grade resource center kids, when one had to use the lavatory he made me promise to stop and wait for him to return. “Promise?”he said.
    It is one of my favorite teacher moments. Nuff said?

  47. Jo Ann Banks

    I’ve been reading aloud to my son almost from birth. After he struggled in school for a couple years, we discovered that he has Dyslexia. Learning to read has been very difficult for him but the love of stories and books is what gave him the courage and desire to keep trying and stick with his specialized tutoring (Barton System). I believe that if he wasn’t read aloud to, it just would have been too much. He now reads above grade level and loves to tell stories himself. Shame on our school system for their lack of foresight!

  48. Louise Shoemaker

    I had a sixth grade teacher who mesmerized me with her voice. I can remember sitting in her class and being transported by the sound of the stories she read to us daily.

    When I became an elementary librarian and secondary English teacher, I passed on the gift to every student in every class. Read-aloud time was magic. I don’t know who enjoyed it more–the kids or me! But I do know that we shared a special bond after a year of experience the joy of the spoken word–powerful stories, beautiful words, passionate reading.

    And it shouldn’t end in elementary school, either. I routinely read to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and they appreciate it, if anything, even more than the younger children.

    Now that I’m retired the students I see around town ALWAYS share their favorite book, the character they remember most, their fond memories of those times in class when the beauty of language claimed them. Nothing is more effective in the transformation of children into readers, thinkers, humans. So now I volunteer to read at libraries, classrooms, reading groups. It’s the most import and and pleasurable thing I do. I hope to still be doing it when I’m 100!

  49. As a teacher I found that great read-alouds were one of the best ways for my students to learn the craft of writing. In a corner of my classroom, in a wing back chair, by the cozy glow of a thrift store lamp, I read story after story to my students. I read picture books and chapter books and early readers. I read short stories and non-fiction and poetry. Where else could my students hear the cadence of words across a page? Where else could they learn so quickly that just the right word in a phrase or sentence could evoke a specific emotion or image for the reader? And that they were capable of doing the same thing in their own stories or poems? The writers in my classroom began to use certain authors as models for their own writing. As Lucy Calkins puts it so well, they stood on the shoulders of other writers as they wrote their stories. They began to go off on their own to find those authors who would guide them, whose voices they had heard over and over through read-alouds. And as a result, their own voices begin to emerge, little by little, on the pages of their journals or in their stories.

  50. Story #1–My mom took me and my siblings to the library every Saturday and we checked out the maximum number of books allowed each, ten. Our appetite for books began when we were younger and our parents read us a bedtime story every single night, if not two or three. One evening, my dad (a sociologist) decided to see how many books I would listen to before losing interest. He read book after book. I kept wanting more. Finally his voice gave out and he had to quit! I suppose it’s no wonder I grew up to be a children’s book writer.

    Story #2–I am also a teacher. Some years ago, I taught first grade to a bunch of kids whose parents didn’t have books in the home or were actually illiterate. I wanted my students to be very clear that I was in love with books, and I hoped to pass that love on to them. One of the things I did to accomplish these goals was to read them outstanding picture books every day after lunch. The kids ate it up! And they certainly seemed to enjoy our weekly trips to the school library. But I really knew I’d succeeded the following year, when the second grade teacher who had inherited a large group from my first grade class told me, mystified, “I don’t understand it. All of the other kids in the school like the computer lab best. But last week when we had to cancel something and I gave the children a choice between the computer lab and the library, your students from last year voted loudly for the library. They told me it was WAY more fun than the computer lab!”

  51. Jacque Summers

    Teachers can make all the difference in the world. I had an eighth grade American history teacher who gave us an assignment to write a Native American legend. After the papers were turned in, my teacher got up in front of the class and said that he was holding an amazing paper. He said that he wanted to read it out loud to everyone but the ink was too faint. It was mine! Being an aboslute “nobody” in school, that moment felt like my “glory almost but never realized.” But from that incident on I felt very confident in my writing.

  52. Diantha French

    Along with my siblings, I was home schooled up till 5th grade. During most of our “school time” my Mom would just read to us. She would get a bag of the real milk chocolate chocolate chips, gather us around her on the couch or the bed, and read for hours. If we were good and listened quietly for the whole page than we each got a chocolate chip:) She read EVERYTHING to us. Novels, history books, science books, picture books, scripture, etc. and I grew up loving being read to. (I loved it so much that I refused to learn to read until I was 7- convinced that once I did no one would read to me anymore. I was forced to learn when my Mom got pregnant and no longer could read to me as much as I liked. So I payed attention to the “teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” and learned in a few weeks. I was right. Since then I have always been the reader, rather than the read to. And once I started to read I continued to read in all genres.
    I believe that my education was a success, even though my Mom didn’t do anything other than teach us math and read to us when I did enter public school I tested for the ALL class and was found to be reading at a college level. The only thing that suffered a bit was my spelling and handwriting skills, which are still dismal- but that’s where computers and spell check come in really handy.
    While my Mom handled the more instructional reading during the day, my Dad read us stories at night. Every night he read a chapter (or two of three if we begged hard enough) of a novel. The Avi “Poppy and Rye” series, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “Tuck Everlasting,” “Chronicles of Narnia”, and “Jack Black and the ship of Thieves”, were some of our favorites.
    Of the six children my parents have raised all four girls are avid readers. My older sister is graduating soon with an English teaching degree, I’m minoring (or majoring- still deciding there) in English, and the 14 year old has a hard time getting to school because she stays up all night reading pretty much every night. (I did that too more times than I care to admit- I would get lost in a book and only “come to” when I heard my brother’s alarm go off.)
    In keeping with current stereotypes, the boys are more interested in math and computers (and are good at it too!) but they still read some, “Diary of a Wimpy kid” and “Artemis Fowl.” are the saviors of their reading education.
    Why read aloud?
    It’s the only way I know to instill kids with the sense of wonder and magic that reading possesses. All kids can appreciate and understand good stories long before they can read them an their own and if they don’t know what’s waiting for them inside that dusty volume they too often get discouraged and give up completely.

  53. rcarnes

    Here is a blog post that I think of often about the power of a teacher and reading aloud: “An Ode to E.B. White and a Very Special Teacher”

  54. I’ve been an elementary teacher and now I teach middle school. I’ve always read aloud to my own children and the kids I teach. I like to read snippets of books I’m reading to the kids and leave them hanging. That is how I hook them into reading more books. My favorite story is the one of my daughter who struggled with reading. The year after she graduated she was hired by the charter school I taught at. They gave her to me as a reading aid. She told the students how she struggled with reading and that if they listened to me that they would become good readers because reading is my passion. I find this especially inspiring because she went on to pass that love of reading on to her children. She read to her belly every night while she was pregnant. They read a book a night when the baby came home. My granddaughter’s favorite thing in the whole world is books. She turns five this month and if you ask her what she loves to do the most she will tell you her favorite thing to do is read to her brother. She can’t actually read yet but she’s working on it. Her brother will probably love reading as much as she does. He is only 5 months old. Reading aloud to your class, to your kids and grandkids is very important. It creates readers.

  55. I relished the times when my upper elementary school teachers read aloud to us – my favorites were the LITTLE HOUSE books and KON TIKI. I felt completely transported in my imagination. During my brief tenure as a middle school English teacher, I read aloud to my composition classes – they enjoyed excerpts from Nancy Willard’s TELLING TIME, and I read THE LITTLE PRINCE to them as well. I can’t imagine raising children without the ritual we enjoyed with ours – the reading aloud of bedtime stories. Many thanks for the worthwhile discussion!

  56. Hello, my name is Ruby, and I am writing on behalf of Pam Allyn and her Global Literacy Organization, LitWorld. We found your blog and are interested in collaborating with you on a project. Is there an email address you can be reached? Mine is here, please contact me so we can chat. Thank you so very much!

    Ruby Veridiano

  57. My father taught 5th grade for most of his career, and every spring he would read Where the Red Fern Grows to his class. At home, we always knew when he was getting to the last few chapters…some people can cry gracefully, but not my dad. His eyes were red, his nose was red, and his voice was scratchy from crying over those dogs in that book.

    Several of his students have told me, many years later, that listening to a grown man read this book, and seeing a grown man cry over dogs in a book was an amazing thing. For some of them, it was the first time they had ever seen an adult cry. My dad knew that he would never be able to read the book without crying at the end, and he read it anyway. He figured the book–and the tears–were worth it, and he wanted his classes to have that experience.

    My dad is a hero. I’ve never doubted this for a moment.

    –Aarene, youth services librarian

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