The value in reading aloud [06-01-2023]
Many subscribers here will no doubt recall a plethora of childhood experiences listening to storybooks read aloud. This likely occurred as a nightly bedtime ritual or a cherished storybook circle-time in the classroom. In either case – the most essential outcome was the establishment of neurological connections associating reading with the sense-filled emotional feelings of love, safety, warmth and belonging. Of the many benefits resulting from listening to stories, probably the one least discussed is the planting of a valuable seed that, if nurtured over time, will blossom into a lifelong love of reading. While the broad definition of literate suggests one’s capacity to read, there is no guarantee that knowledge of reading ensures one’s love of reading. Assuming that you see value in developing a child’s learning autonomy – and regard reading as a key component in independent growth and expansion of knowledge, skills and capacity – it stands to reason that fostering love for reading is a worthy pursuit. For more information about a community-wide capacity generating literacy program, I recommend the model published by Childhood Education International.
So, how do we wrap our heads around understanding how ‘my reading to another‘ impacts ‘their‘ desire to read? The secret is in modelling the transformation of abstract words on the page to narratives that can be imagined or visualized. In the case of young children, the reference to illustrations initially assists in their formation of mind-images. Storybook characters become alive in the imagination, and when this happens, the desire to read is born. This is why young children ask for their favorite story to be read again and again. With each iteration, the language patterns within the story are being memorized, new vocabulary internalized and the young reader begins to mimic the reading behavior that was modelled. At the age of 3, my oldest daughter took every chance she had to publicly display her prowess in reading Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’, which at that time was her favorite story. When the child begins to recognize the relationship between letter phonemes and words that is when the magical adventure ensues. (Reading Rockets is a recommended website with great resources and information)
Following the above string of logic, it stands to reason why 2nd language or foreign language learners have a more difficult time, and in fact may never develop a love of reading in the target language. Their exposure to reading is likely limited to the controlled text presented in the language classroom, usually as practice for comprehension development/assessment. This however is not an inevitable outcome considering that all children are born with a universal capacity to discriminate phonemes, and that neurological connections associating reading with emotions of love, safety, warmth and belonging – are easily established through the simple process of story-time. In creating the ‘Marcus’ series, it was my desire to provide young readers of all types with a story that highlights the true superpowers inherent within them.
There are two aspects that separate this book from other books within the genre of juvenile fiction. The first regards the main protagonist – a five year old boy whose incessant curiosity about the world around him demonstrates a capacity for analytical thinking and creativity to an extent that we do not often attribute to one so young… I believe Marcus represents a far greater proportion of young souls whose magnificent capacity may not be fully recognized or appreciated.
The second, is in its intentionality to present young readers a story that celebrates their capabilities. While most early reader texts limit the range and scope of vocabulary to the 500 most frequently used words, I’ve found that young readers enjoy the challenge of decoding and amassing new vocabulary that others perceive as complex. The act of reading is the process of making sense of abstract symbols to understand meaning. Similar to Roald Dahl and other like-minded authors, I do not wish to impose limitations on my readers, for I believe they are capable of far more than we give them credit for. The rich vocabulary is intentional, and awakens the mind to an exciting linguistic adventure that will be experienced by the young reader as a challenge overcome. That said, the syllabic highlighting of text provides young readers greater ease in applying phonetic understanding to decode and pronounce new vocabulary.
Teachers, parents and adult mentors are advised to take story-time outside (weather permitting), when reading ‘Marcus King of the Dandelions‘ to young readers for the first time, so that reference to the natural environment around them can be made throughout the experience. Like learning to ride a bicycle, you will see their intrinsic desire to read expand and mature with practice.
Any comments or reflections based on your own experiences of reading aloud are welcome to be shared among the community here.
The next update will be published on 1 July 2023!