Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ban Read-Alouds? Ban the Bureaucrat!

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.


  1. Once I get past the "Don't Read Aloud," I don't know which is more appalling. The idea that the teacher "doesn't have time" to read or that the principal has time to go around telling his teachers how to run their classroom. He is neither a good teacher nor a good administrator.

    Sign me - the Principal's Daughter

    Recent blog post: Book Review: I Have a Dream, Too!

  2. bookchook21 May, 2009

    Terry, I should be a Book Turkey - I am still gobbling! And goggling! And I fear this is the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Dawn@Moms Inspire Learning21 May, 2009

    Sadly, the situation in the article is by no means an isolated incident. It's one of the many reasons I am not currently pursuing a permanent teaching position. If I can't teach my own way, I'd rather not do it at all.

    Recent blog post: This Picture Book is Not for Young Readers

  4. The Book Nosher21 May, 2009

    This is such a sad comment on the state of the U.S. educational system. Although, I know there are teachers (and principals) everywhere who would be appalled by the principal's edict. I think someone should send him/her a copy of Jim Trelease's "The Read Aloud Handbook." Aargh

    Recent blog post: No Toys in the Fish Tank!

  5. bookchook22 May, 2009

    I truly respect you for that stance, Dawn. It's great that you are able to offer your skills and passion for learning via your blog instead!

    Recent blog post: Coming Soon, Literacy Lava

  6. bookchook22 May, 2009

    And maybe Readicide, too, Robyn. And my bible, Mem Fox's Reading Magic.

    I totally agree that there are teachers and principals and okay, probably bureaucrats too who would be appalled by the edict. It's just that I keep thinking,"But what about those kids?" Some of them will have had parents who read to them at home. According to the statistics I've read, more than 50% won't.

    Who's going to read to those kids?

    Recent blog post: Coming Soon, Literacy Lava

  7. Oh this is terrible. I was read to, at home and read to at school and I still read to my kids who are sixteen and fifteen. I remember my fourth grade teacher reading to us each day. Oh, we all loved reading time. And, yes, we learned a whole lot. Not just to love to read. we had discussions about social ills and love and sacrifice. Think of all the things that you can discuss when you read Charlotte's Web, for instance.

  8. bookchook22 May, 2009

    Sally, I'm so pleased to hear you still read to your kids!

    Great point about discussions arising from books. Perhaps discussions will be mandated if read alouds are banned. "You will now discuss love and sacrifice. Begin."

    Recent blog post: Coming Soon, Literacy Lava


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