My first memory of being read to, was listening to our Headmistress read Pilgrim's Progress to us. I associate it with the smell of the dusty green mats we sat on, the sound of a blowfly droning in summer heat, and my memory that it was something about a lamp. I was six at the time.
Later, reading aloud became vital to me. As a young teacher, I discovered even the most active kids would sit still if I found a book to engage them. I realized that if I really entered into the story, made the reading as dramatic and interesting as I could, the kids begged for more. And I began to notice their increasing motivation to read for themselves. I was hooked! I embarked on a life-long love affair with children's literature and literacy, through reading aloud.
So it absolutely appalls me to read stories like this one thrown up by Google today from the Orange County Register. A teacher in the USA has been told by the principal not to read to her second grade class because "... there isn't enough time in the day for them to read a story to their class for enjoyment." In many western countries, apparently, there is such emphasis on testing, teachers are being told not to read aloud to kids. Yet reading aloud is the very best way I know to sell kids on reading, no matter what age they are. Do we want our students motivated to read? Do we want them to love literature and turn to reading for the answers in their lives? Do we want to share the the sheer joy and magic of reading?
If not, let's replace read-alouds with tests. I'm sure that will make some grey little bureaucrat happy.