Reading Aloud for All Ages

Author of Immigrant Voices reading aloud for all ages

A close friend of mine recently shared that he and his wife take turns choosing a book and reading aloud to one other, and that got me thinking about how the shared experience of reading a story aloud formed lasting connections within my own family.

While he rarely came and sat with us, my oldest child would often place himself within earshot when I was reading books, especially the ones I had read aloud to him, with his little sister, who is 11 years his junior. These days, with both children now grown, our shared family reading experiences often come back in the form of references to characters, story events, or where we were when we read the book. Also, although my extended family is an ocean away, we all often share our childrens’ favorite books, and that has led to some family catchphrases such as, “‘I’ll have that!’ said Burglar Bill,” which can result in a few raised eyebrows without the larger context of the story.

I know, because I wrote my master’s thesis on it, that interactions between adults and young children during read-aloud time build the foundation for the literacy skills that children learn later in school. However, we often ignore the importance of the connections that we make and the bonding that takes place when we share a story together.

All of this comes to mind when I read about situations in which a group of people find themselves in the same room, but each is focused on their own screen, each reading, watching, or playing something different. Perhaps as we adjust to a “new normal” now, we can think about finding time to read aloud to someone or to seek out people with whom we can talk about books we share in common. I know I find these experiences to be rewarding and thought-provoking, regardless of the age of the people involved. Moreover, while I still prefer to hold a book, this too can involve screens.

By the way, that friend who reads with his wife also leads an adult Great Books group that has been meeting for Shared Inquiry discussions around novels, plays, poems, and other texts for the past 22 years!

Senior Professional Learning Consultant Linda Barrett has over 20 years of experience as both a professional development coach and a training instructor with the Great Books Foundation, working with a wide range of student populations in schools throughout the country and abroad. She has supported Great Books implementations, including several Comprehensive School Reform projects in the New York City area. Now based in Florida, Linda continues to support a number of large Junior Great Books implementations, while also growing multi-school Junior Great Books initiatives in several Florida counties and a number of other states.