“We read to children for same reasons we talk to children: to reassure, to entertain, to bond; to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity, to inspire.”
Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook
Before television came into every home, children used to grow up listening to rhymes, poems, songs, and stories, narrated by their parents, grand parents and other family members. Children were very fortunate to receive such a rich heritage through oral storytelling. Despite the language of the story, reading aloud to children provides them with life-changing reading skills.
For the last few years, scholars have had many discussions about how to best teach second language learners, as teachers, we are exposed to a variety of methods and best practices created to teach our students. We know the importance of reading, and its benefits for second language learners, as part of the Balanced Literacy Approach, the Interactive read-aloud is an essential component that forges the use of cognitive strategies in young readers.
What is Read-Aloud?
Reading aloud is a wonderful way to invite children to the world of written language. It is a strategy where the student develops his reading skills guided by the teacher, starting from the children’s background knowledge, exposing them to a variety of stories, content and genres, and modeling reading skills. “In reading aloud, we also: condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure, build vocabulary, and provide a reading role model” (Trelease 2001, 6).
Read-aloud is used as a time of the day when learners sit eagerly awaiting the sound of a great story. Selecting the appropriate book with familiar experiences or characters encourages listening and enhances comprehension. With emergent and early readers it is important to use books with rich illustrations because they are still understanding how the text is organized, bringing children in close to read to them and pointing out the artwork (Allington and Cunningham 2003).
Language Theory in Practice
Interactive read aloud is an effective way to develop a second language. The teacher reads the children a variety of texts that present different phonological models and a wide variety of vocabulary (semantics). “Read aloud helps students learn vocabulary, grammar, new information, and how stories and written language works” (Routman 2003,20). These language models are presented within the context of the story, which helps English learners understand the language. Read-alouds for language learners provide a source of comprehensible input that support the development of a second language, according to Krashen’s input comprehension hypothesis and acquisition hypothesis (Krashen 1982).
The Structure of Read-Aloud
Read-aloud provides the students access to good reading strategies. The activities developed for the read-aloud comprehend before, during, and after reading activities.
- Before the Read
Focus on generating background knowledge (pictures walks, making predictions, talking about concepts of print, vocabulary, making connections, pair-shares).
- During the Read
While reading the story, it is important for teachers to point out the connections between the reading and the illustrations. This is time for questions and sharing the students thinking with their partners. The teachers will support the students’ language and comprehension skills.
- After the Read
The teacher can recap the story or ask questions that extend the student’s comprehension of the story. During this time the teacher can also ask the students about their personal connections, favorite part of the story, favorite character, setting, plot etc.
As children listen the stories, they will learn and acquire the reading strategies, and may transfer these strategies into their own language for its use in reading and written composition over time. We have focused on interactive read-aloud practice in order to enhance the second language learners’ reading strategies; working in this particular practice regularly allows the students to become familiar with the English syntax of the story, the understanding of the meaning of the stories, and mainly developing reading skills.
Cappellini, Mary. (2005) Balancing Reading & Language Learning, A resource for Teaching English Language Learners, K-5 Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers
Chen, Linda & Mora, F. Eugenia. (2006). Balance Literacy for English Language learners, K-2 Portsmounth, NH: Heinemann.
Hahn, Mary Lee. (2002). Reconsidering Read-aloud. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Aquisition. Stephen d krashen. Retrieved from http://www.sdkrashen.com/Principles_and_Practice/index.html
Zimmerman, S., Hutchins, Ch. (2003) 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to help your kids read it and get it! New York: Three River Press.