Some of My Fondest Memories of High School were Read-Alouds

You could hear a pin drop in my classroom when I read aloud. It is their favorite time of the day. They beg me to read aloud to them.

-What a teacher recently shared with me

 

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I still remember when I got hooked on reading. My 3rd-grade teacher started reading aloud Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. The humor and plot hit home for me, also being an older brother like Peter, the main character. After hearing that book read aloud, I became a voracious reader. I now associated reading with both pleasure and with learning more about myself (“Would I have reacted to my younger brother like Peter did to Fudge?”). Bill Wallace and Roald Dahl were favorite authors, along with comics such as Calvin & Hobbes and Garfield.

As I progressed through the middle grades, I remained an avid reader in spite of the fact that my teachers did not read aloud to us. This is before the advent of smartphones, television-on-demand, and ubiquitous wireless. Reading was the only game in town. However, as I became more involved in high school, books started to become less important. Sports and other extracurriculars monopolized my time. I didn’t complain. It was great to be involved in the many opportunities. But my reading life suffered.

That’s why I am thankful that a high school teacher took the time to read aloud to us. He taught English and wasn’t shy about bucking the current thinking that reading aloud to secondary students was a waste of time. Read-aloud was leveraged as a tool both for instruction and for engagement. To be fair, what we participated in would be termed “shared read aloud”. We all had copies of the text and were expected to read at least some of it independently during class and at home. Here are a few snippets of what I remember from his classroom.

  • While reading aloud Lord of the Flies by William Golding, our teacher would reread dialogue out loud that gave clues to the personalities of each character.
  • While reading aloud Flower for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, the teacher asked provocative questions about the nature of science and perceived benefits.

As much as the lesson objective, I recall the very act of being read aloud to in the classroom. Getting to hear the cadence and prosody of an expert reader was an invaluable model for secondary students like myself who still hadn’t yet mastered the art of reading. The joy in literature was evident as our teacher read aloud to us. I cannot recall one peer stating that this type of activity was a waste of time or boring.

Through our community-based literacy experience mediated through read-aloud, I had rediscovered the importance of reading. I was more likely to pick up a book to read for pleasure, or even force myself to read a required text in another classroom and not defer to the Cliff Notes or the movie (if applicable). The typical life of a high schooler still held my focus. Yet my interest in reading was renewed. I once again viewed literature as a lifelong activity instead of another subject to be completed in school.

 

 

An Open Letter to Judy Blume

*This letter was written by one of my fourth grade classrooms as a shared writing activity. As a school, we have focused on modeling writing for kids regularly. In this case, the class is responding to a book by Judy Blume. I told them I would share their writing with Judy Blume via Twitter. If you could, please comment on this post as the students would love feedback, even if your name is not Judy Blume!

Dear Judy Blume,

​We are fourth graders from Mrs. Sonnenberg’s class at Howe Elementary School in Wisconsin Rapids. Our class really liked your book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Earlier this year we also read Freckle Juice and The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. Your books are funny and entertaining.

​In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing we thought Fudge was very hilarious. Especially when he ate flowers, played with socks, ate Dribble, and didn’t eat his food. He seemed like a normal two year old boy at times though. Like when he was banging on pots and pans. We did enjoy the ‘Eat it or wear it!’ part very much.

​Peter tried to act all mature. There were many times Peter wished Fudge was never born. Boy, we had a lot of connections with that. One time Peter was really annoyed when Fudge was lost in the movies.

​The book was totally awesome. We have a few questions for you.

Why did you decide to have Fudge eat Dribble?
How did you come up with all those good ideas?
Do you think you could make a 6th Fudge book?
​Can you write back to us?
Why did you make these books into a series?
When did you want to become a published author?
How many books have you published?

We thought your book was the best. We wish you could come over to visit us.

​​​​​Sincerely,

​​​​​Mrs. Sonnenberg’s Class