I am a longtime advocate for teachers to model the reading of all types of text by reading to them (sometimes referred to as ‘read-aloud’) as frequently as possible. Sometimes the hardest part is determining just which book to read.
Here are the best and most accessible resources for ideas for texts to read to your students, guaranteed to guide you well, and provide you with an ever-growing resource. I love it when teachers ask for advice and ideas from others regarding suitable texts for particular grades, or texts on specific topics or appropriate to different subjects or themes. Share these with your colleagues and become a book expert yourself.
Collections of books
Ideas and suggestions for books to read to all ages, noting that it is necessary to read just for that sheer joy – don’t lose that from your classroom by getting bogged down in units of work for every book you read.
- The Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA) for:
- Literature Singles – Australian Curriculum based units of work using contemporary children’s literature
- Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) guides each year for all nominated books, with lesson plans
- Classroom units of work organised by year
- Classroom units of work organised by curriculum area
- a range of Classroom Resources on English and the environment, as well as links to numerous websites.
- Suggested texts for NSW English K-10 syllabus was updated in 2017
- The Premier’s Reading Challenge takes place in most Australian states (not WA). A search will take you to your local site for lists of books and advice on participation.
- Reading Australia is fabulous. So many resources and ideas.
- Better Reading is an Australian website that suggests books for various themes and genres. Visit frequently. Check out their podcasts too.
- Trelease, J. (2013) The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Ed) NY: Penguin – this is one of the definitive works about reading aloud to children at school and at home. It is American, but you can add your own favourites to the pages where they belong.
- storylineonline.net has American actors reading popular US books – some good ideas and great for listening.
Reading to an audience has a long history. We’ve only had universal education for the last hundred years or so, and books and learning were traditionally in the hands of the wealthy or the church. If written or printed information was to be shared, it had to be read aloud. Reading by teachers used to provide access to the literature and information that was not easily available.
These conditions still apply in some communities and in many countries.
In today’s classrooms we have focused on defining the elements of reading, and are narrowing the parameters of engaging with text to specific outcomes which are required to be visible in all activities.
Our bullet train of learning hurtles towards measurable achievements and the constant collection of data. Reading aloud by a teacher often doesn’t even take a back seat in our high stakes classroom vehicle – there is no time.
Value of reading aloud – more than reading for pleasure
Reading aloud is a demonstration of skilled reading, and what engagement with a text looks like – that is, solving problems and thinking deeply.
Basically, through modelling, read aloud-teaches the how of interacting with a text and the why of making meaning from texts.
Read-aloud increases receptive and expressive vocabulary, improves fluency, strengthens comprehension and increases motivation to read …
Burkins & Yaris 2015 p. 34
Reading aloud is one way to show our students that reading is good for them. (Lowe 2016 p.30).
Jim Trelease, in The Read -Aloud Handbook, describes the ‘rich intellectual history’ of reading to both children and adults (2013 p. 11-12). He cites OECD research (p.10) indicating a powerful correlation between students’ results on the PISA scores at age 15 and having been read to in ‘the first grade’ (OECD 2010).
When we read to our students, they can concentrate on the text without the ‘brake’ of decoding and navigating for themselves.
Text selection is critical to the success of reading to students. Start with short pieces. Include rhymes and stories with repetition, cumulative structures and familiar contexts, which encourages active listening with prediction and joining in.
Poetry: Put short powerful poems on display for students to read later for themselves. A poem such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s The Eagle has strong imagery, uses a range of literary devices, and is easy to learn.
Excerpts: from longer works provide an introduction to texts, like the first page of Ted Hughes’ ‘The Iron Man’ –
The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
How far had he come? Nobody knows. Where had he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows.
Taller than a house, the Iron Man stood at the top of the cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness.
The wind sang through his iron fingers.
Hughes (1968) p.13
Use of repetition, imagery, personification and interesting vocabulary (‘on the very brink’) makes it worthy of listening to, dramatic reading, making connections to experience, anticipating events, and repeating for its own sake. Then for reading the whole book.
Telling: Learn Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’. Carroll’s Alice says of ‘Jabberwocky’: “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are!” When we read to our students, they can share this experience of having their heads filled with ideas, and not quite knowing what they are.
The ACARA Literacy Learning Progression Appendix 6 is a guide for your students’ reading progress, but also provides support for your choice of books to read.
Increasingly, there is need for our reading aloud in the classroom. Share quality, engaging texts. These explore the extended vocabulary of literature and of the classroom, so that children learn there is more to reading and the use of printed English language than graded readers, purpose-built and plot light ‘decodable texts’, or the popular cartoonish page-turners that fill bookshop shelves.
Listening skills are most clearly articulated in the ACARA National Literacy Learning Progression, the sub-element of listening in the Element of Speaking and Listening. Develop and implement a whole-school specific program for listening early in each term, ready for the rest of the school year.
It takes time, careful thought, and great texts to build a culture of reading to, and listening, with your students. It is well worth the effort.
For follow-up activities that can assist students as they make meaning:
- Chambers, A. (1993) Tell me: Children, reading and talk Newtown: PETA
- Jones P. (Ed). (1996) Talking to Learn Newtown: PETA
- Jones P., Simpson, A. & Thwaite, A. (2018) Talking the Talk – Snapshots from Australian Classrooms, Newtown: PETAA
· Hoyt, L. (2008) Revisit, Reflect, Retell: Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension Portsmouth NH: Heinemann
Interesting findings are in a UK study on Teacher knowledge of children’s literature and other texts, Research Rich Pedagogies at https://researchrichpedagogies.org/research/theme/teachers-knowledge-of-childrens-literature-and-other-texts
Please check this link to Teachers: let your voice be heard for an Australian study. Scroll down to participate. Share with others, too. The information will be valuable for ongoing research and understandings.
ACARA (2018) National Literacy Learning Progression at https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/resources/national-literacy-and-numeracy-learning-progressions/national-literacy-learning-progression/speaking-and-listening/?subElementId=50559&scaleId=50736 accessed 08/09/2019
Lowe, K. (2016) For the Love of Reading: Supporting struggling readers Newtown: PETAA
Burkins, J. & Yaris, K. (2016) Who’s doing the work? : how to say less so your readers can do more Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers
Hughes, T. (1968) The Iron Man. A Story in Five Nights London: Faber & Faber
Trelease, J. (2013) The Read-Aloud Handbook 7th Ed USA: Penguin (including O.E.C.D. PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes, Vol. II (2010), p. 95, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264091504-en)
Based on materials from an earlier blog: ‘Reading to your students.’