Why reading aloud to students is wonderful even when they're in high school

Why reading aloud to students is wonderful even when they're in high school

"My teacher read aloud from The Lord of the Flies all period," my ninth grade daughter said when I asked her what happened in English class.

"Really?!?!" I tried to contain my excitement. "How was that?"

"It was cool. I haven't had anyone read out loud to us in a while, and I liked it" she answered.

Some may think that reading out loud to the class is something reserved for kindergarten, not high school freshmen, but I'm thrilled that my daughter's teacher understands the value in reading to his class of teenagers.

It can be a welcome change of pace from the usual high school classroom routine.

On the ninth day of ninth grade, I'm guessing this teacher knew that his students were a bit overwhelmed and quite possibly stressed by several tests in other subjects that day.

What a gift to give them time to take a deep breath and just listen.

We talk about how kids are sponges and I love that this teacher gave them the chance to absorb the start of a book.

There are many educational benefits of reading aloud, including modeling fluency and expanding vocabulary and others discussed here. Someone recently pointed out that with texting so prevalent, teens are reading their phones quite a bit but spending less time speaking and listening.

The high schoolers in her class all have laptops, and their tests that day were taken on computers. Just sitting and immersing themselves in a story for a full period is a respite that engaged their brain in a different way. I thought it was a great way to help frame the book for the kids and help them understand the tone, in a very literal way.

I'll be honest that Lord of the Flies wouldn't be my first choice for a read-aloud, but perhaps that's the perfect reason to do it. Listening to the beginning of the text, which can be intense and dark and intimidating, made it a bit more accessible.

Most of all, though, I love that the teacher explained to his students (and I'm paraphrasing because my info comes hours after the event from a 14-year-old), "I really like hearing stories. I liked it when people read to me and thought you guys might, too."

I love that this teacher is sharing his joy of reading, be it aloud or otherwise, and his love of stories.

Modeling joy of reading is a huge gift this teacher gave to his students. (And it reminded me of this article that I recently read: 7 ways to promote positive reading habits for older children.)

"If kids only experience reading as drudgery, then they’re going to avoid it as much as possible. Of course, teachers are busy and have a lot of material to cover, but even if they only devote five minutes a day to the pleasure of reading, at the end of the year when you add those five minutes up, that will be what most kids remember," said Jim Trelease, author of Read-Aloud Handbook, in The hidden benefits of reading aloud — even for older kids on GreatSchools.org.

When we were assigned reading in high school, I don't know that I ever looked at it as, "Oh, I get to read a good story." (And this is from someone who went on to be an English major in college.) It may be wishful thinking, but I'm hopeful that, with the help of her teacher, my daughter will look at her English class through that joyful lens.

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