The principal that hired me as a teacher back in 2000 made it a point to read aloud in my 5th and 6th grade classroom. I got to see him as more than just the principal. I observed how he managed a classroom, facilitated discussions and integrated different subject areas as he shared quality literature with students. These are some of the essential components of a read aloud.
When I became an elementary principal twelve years later, I made a point to follow his example as a reading principal. For instance, I have heavily invested in books, shelves and other materials in my office. As a principal, I don’t have time to stroll by the library and pick up a book to read aloud in a classroom. I have to have materials ready and a schedule to follow to be intentional about sharing great books with classrooms.
Before the school year started, I took a purchase order with me to a local children’s book store, The Book Look in Plover, WI. I sat and took notes while the owner, Mary Lou Manske, rattled off one book after another that she felt were read aloud-worthy. Below is the spreadsheet that I developed to organize my read alouds by grade level and subject area.
The four categories on top are based on Regie Routman’s resource Teaching Essentials. She agrees that read alouds are teachable moments that require planning and intent. Working in a school with a lot of diversity, it is vital that I represent multiple cultures when I share important literature with students. To note: This spreadsheet is a living document. As I find better read alouds I switch out books. However, I am getting to the point where a new list will be needed.
Having these books at the ready is necessary. With the help of my custodian, I have my read alouds on display in my office.
Anyone who enters my office can look around and immediately know how much I value literacy. Much of my dispositions go back to the early mentoring I received from my first principal. I hope that same attitude is made evident by me with the faculty in my own school.