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Reading Aloud Builds Better Writers

I’m consulting in a local school today where I’ve been working with the staff since August rolling-out interactive read aloud.  Every two months the interactive read aloud text set reflects a particular social issue.  Today we’re preparing for the voice/silence text set, which teachers will begin in April.   Each teacher, in grades K – 5, needs approximately three 30-minute sessions/week to get through each of their text sets.  The books they read aloud during interactive read aloud are supposed to be in addition to the read alouds they are doing in other content areas. This means students should be hearing books, articles, and poems read aloud throughout many parts of the day.  Does this sound time consuming?  It is.  I know it’s challenging because I taught in a school that had a school-wide interactive read aloud program, reading workshop, and writing workshop for two years.  It’s hard to squeeze multiple read alouds into the school day, but I believe it is a necessity.

Last week I began rereading Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-6 by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli (Stenhouse, 2007) in preparation for the graduate course I’m teaching this summer.  On pages 37 & 38 of Dorfman and Cappelli’s book, they quote Carol Gay’s article from The Elementary School Journal entitled “Reading Aloud and Learning to Write.”  Gay published her article in 1976, but what she wrote then still holds true today.  Here are two excerpts from Gay’s article I wanted to share with you:

  • Reading aloud is inseparably linked with learning to write.  If elementary school teachers fail to read aloud to their students often, regularly, and for reasonably long periods of time, those students are going to be severely handicapped in learning to write (87).
  • Only by hearing good literature can a child come to realize what it is and to understand what writing has to offer him — an opportunity to describe, define, and perhaps understand his world (93).

Gay’s assertions reminded me of a point I want to drive home to my grad students when I teach the course on using children’ s literature to teach writing later this year.  It’s a necessity to read aloud regularly to students since the act of reading aloud is the major pathway to increase students’ success as writers.  Purposefully selecting texts that can be beloved as read alouds and revisited as mentor texts helps students to become the kinds of readers and writers who are enamored with and by books.   Furthermore, if our ultimate goal as teachers of writers is to help our students self-select mentor texts, then it’s necessary for us to use rich literature daily, if not multiple times during the school day, to inspire our students.

Some questions to think about:

  • How much time do you spend reading books aloud in the service of writing workshop?
  • How many times do you read a book with your students before you begin using it in writing workshop?
  • How many uses do each of your mentor texts have?  That is, do you use a book for more than one purpose?
  • Do your mentor texts function across units of study?
  • How have the mentor texts you’ve used so far, this year, helped your students define, describe, or understand his/her world better?

If you want more support on weaving read alouds across your curriculum, then check out Laminack and Wadsworth’s book Reading Aloud Across the Curriculum: How to Build Bridges in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies (Heinemann, 2006). For more information about ways to use social action concepts as springboards into richer read alouds (i.e., similar to the work I mentioned above), then check out Bomer & Bomer’s book, For a Better World (Heinemann, 2001).

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.

6 thoughts on “Reading Aloud Builds Better Writers Leave a comment

  1. I’ve always read aloud to my elementary classes, but I never thought about its merit in connection with the various subject areas. I always assumed my read aloud time was only for language arts, but what a great idea to read articles and such to bring social studies and science alive! You definitely provided me with a “Duh!” moment! Thank you!


  2. I am currently doing research for a literacy workshop, and I have come across the importance of reading aloud time and time again–not just for younger students, but older students too. It’s so important for students to make the connection between the written word and the spoken word, as well as reading. Stories are meant to be told, not just an exercise to demonstrate concepts like plot and setting. I am so pleased to have found this information.


  3. I work mostly with homeschooling families, who tend to produce better readers and writers than the norm. I wonder if this is because home learning provides more contexts for reading aloud.


  4. Yes, I agree that reading aloud to students often is incredibly important. My goal is to read something 3 – 4 times a day to my students. Sometimes it’s something online such as the wonder of the day from Wonderopolis. The kids love it and gravitate towards the read aloud basket often for their independent reading.


  5. It helps students connect in so many ways-as experiencing writers & experiencing how others look at the same text, plus one thing I love, a shared community-building experience. It’s so important.


  6. I’m not a teacher, but I still remember in the olden days (c. 1963), our fifth grade teacher would read us a chapter or so after lunch each day. I don’t remember what she read, only that she did and I loved it! I read to my own kids each morning before they started their work (we home schooled) and they loved it as well! IT is worth while & important!


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