[originally published on MackinCommunity.com]
Words are powerful, especially when words are shared from one person to another. Reading aloud to students is a unique opportunity to share words. Reading picture books out loud to secondary students is just as valuable as when they were read to in grade school. In addition to the illustrations adding to the magic of the spoken word, vocabulary skills and comprehension is strengthened. Here are five additional benefits of reading aloud with your secondary students.
1. STRENGTHENS COMMUNITY
Stories can connect people and build a great sense of community. Reading together creates a positive culture in the classroom and develops a unique bond among the listeners. The time secondary classrooms spend together reading a picture book aloud promotes bonding and strengthens relationships. Children’s book author, Kate DiCamillo said, “We humans long not just for story, not just for the flow of language, but for the connection that comes when words are read aloud. That connection provides illumination.”
2. GAINS EXPOSURE TO DIVERSE THEMES
More and more picture books are using diverse themes and characters. Increasing students’ exposure to stories about social responsibility, socioeconomic diversity, and different cultures and beliefs gives an opportunity for a class to interpret diversity together. Exposing secondary students to these books provides unique reflections of themselves and opens doors into their classmates’ lives. These picture books can spark discussion between secondary students that a traditional novel read independently doesn’t generate. These conversations allow for deeper understanding of diverse issues.2
3. CREATES A SAFE SPACE
Research has shown us that secondary students’ stress is increasing and more and more are suffering from anxiety.3 When a story is read aloud, students become more comfortable discussing their emotions with others. Exposing students to stories that explore particular emotions allows them to feel supported socially and emotionally. The result is a class that is read aloud to becomes a safe space where students can accept their own feelings and understand how others feel.
4. INCREASES ATTENTION SPAN
It may be surprising to see how engaged and interested secondary students become when a picture book is used to introduce a new concept. It is important to keep things fresh in the classroom, and a read-aloud is a great way to capture secondary students’ attention. Unlike watching a video, reading aloud provides an opportunity to model learning strategies (i.e. thinking aloud, question, and application). This slower discovery of ideas encourages students to listen and focus which will increase their overall attention span.
Reading aloud also gives an opportunity for secondary students to fidget, move around a bit, or use flexible seating. Family counselor, Dr. Michael Gurian, has studied children’s behavior while being read to. The scientific evidence discovered demonstrates that many kids not only need to move while being read to, they actually retain information better when they are allowed to do so.4
5. PROVIDES ENJOYMENT
Students of all ages enjoy being read to. Reading aloud reinforces the enthusiasm we, as educators, have for books. It gives students a chance to enjoy a book without struggling to decode words and have background knowledge.5 Picture books provide an opportunity to interpret the illustrations as text features. Stories connect us to each other, and reading together is a shared joy. Hearing stories allow students to experience other worlds and situations in a safe space. Reading is fun. Reading is powerful. Reading can spark a lifelong love of learning.
Following is a curated collection of new picture books that are excellent read-alouds for secondary students when setting up new concepts, introducing diverse themes, and wanting to generate a new spark for learning.
UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson (VERSIFY 2019)
Presents a poem honoring the troubles and triumphs of African Americans through history.
VOTE FOR OUR FUTURE! by Margaret McNamar, Illustrated by Micah Player (SCHWARTZ & WADE 2020)
A powerful picture book about voting and elections and finding-our voices for change
FACTS VS. OPINIONS VS. ROBOTS by Michael Rex (NANCY PAULSEN BOOKS 2020)
A hilarious, timely conversation about the differences between facts and opinions.
ONE LITTLE BAG : AN AMAZING JOURNEY by Henry Cole (SCHOLASTIC 2020)
An incredible journey of one little bag that is used and reused and reused again
NESTING by Henry Cole (KATHERINE TEGEN BOOKS 2020)
A stunning picture book about robins: their homes, their lives, and their families.
UNSTOPPABLE by Adam Rex , Illustrated by Laura Park (CHRONICLE BOOKS 2020)
Perfect read-aloud book for children interested in animals, the environment, and political action.
FEELINGS & EMOTIONS
GOOD EGG by Jory John, Illustrations by Pete Oswald (HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS 2019)
A funny and charming story that reminds us of the importance of balance, self-care, and accepting those we love.
LOVE by Matt de la Pena, Illustrations by Loren Long (PUTNAM PUBLISHING 2018)
Love is so many things to so many different people. This book celebrates love and the way it connects us all.
OLD ROCK (IS NOT BORING) by Deb Pilutti (PUTNAM PUBLISHING 2020)
Great storytellers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and Old Rock’s stories are sure to inspire questions that lead to wonderful conversations about the past and the natural world.
ALSO AN OCTOPUS by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Illustrated by Benji Davies (CANDLEWICK PRESS 2016)
Even the most totally awesome story starts with a little bit of nothing. What happens next is up to you! A delightfully meta picture book that will set imaginations soaring.
POWER OF ONE : EVERY ACT OF KINDNESS COUNTS by Trudy Ludwig, Illustrated by Mike Curato (KNOPF BOOKS 2020)
One small act of kindness can change the world. From the author of The Invisible Boy, comes a tale as simple as the golden rule.
SNAIL CROSSING by Corey R. Tabor (BALZER + BRAY 2020)
In a book that is as cheerful and charming as Snail himself, Corey Tabor tells a winning tale of slow but steady Snail, whose determination and kindness bring him the best reward of all: friendship.
LOSS and GRIEF
ROUGH PATCH by Brian Lies (GREENWILLOW 2018)
A breathtakingly beautiful book that is pitch-perfect for anyone of any age who has experienced any type of loss or disappointment.
DON’T WORRY BOOK by Todd Parr (LITTLE, BROWN BOOKS 2019)
This book reassures kids everywhere that even when things are scary or confusing, there’s always something comforting around the corner.
LEARN THROUGH FAILURE
MOST MAGNIFICENT THING by Ashley Spires (KIDS CAN PRESS 2014)
An exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity.
BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND by Wm Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer, Illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon (DIAL 2012)
The true story of how a 14-year-old taught himself how to build a windmill, giving electricity and a means for transporting water to his people.
DIVERSITY & TOLERANCE
BE YOU! by Peter H. Reynolds (ORCHARD BOOKS 2020)
Discover a joyful reminder of the ways that every child is unique and special. To be patient, persistent, and true.
AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Justin Richardson, Illustrated by Henry Cole (SIMON & SCHUSTER 2005)
This noteworthy story on family diversity helps define the meaning of family.
LITTLE SOCK by Kia Heise & Christopher D. Park (SLEEPING BEAR PRESS 2019)
Little Sock wants something different and so he bravely sets out on a scary journey to discover a new and different world.
RED : A CRAYON’S STORY by Michael Hall (GREENWILLOW 2015)
This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book is about finding the courage to be true to your inner self.
EXQUISITE : THE POETRY AND LIFE OF GWENDOLYN BROOKS by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera (ABRAMS BOOKS 2020)
This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression — all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject.
FRED’S BIG FEELINGS : THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF MISTER ROGERS by Laura Renauld, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager (ATHENEUM BOOKS 2020)
Illustrated children’s book about the life of Fred Rogers and the creation of his children’s television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE : GRETA THUNBERG’S CALL TO SAVE THE PLANET by Jeanette Winter (BEACH LANE BOOKS 2019)
Learn the story of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old climate activist who is demanding action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change.
NO TRUTH WITHOUT RUTH : THE LIFE OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG by Kathleen Krull, Illustrations by Nancy Zhang (HARPERCOLLINS 2018)
An introduction on how to the second female Supreme Court justice faced discrimination and how her fight for equality changed the way the law dealt with women’s rights.
1 Mackenzie, Sarah. “RAR #121: Kate DiCamillo on Reading Aloud for Connection – Read-Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie.” Read, 15 Nov. 2019, readaloudrevival.com/121/.
2 Eggs, Reading. “7 Important Benefits of Reading Aloud.” The Reading Eggs Blog, 5 Mar. 2015, blog.readingeggs.com/2015/03/03/7-important-benefits-of-reading-aloud/.
3 McCarthy, Claire. “Anxiety in Teens Is Rising: What’s Going On?” HealthyChildren.org, 20 Nov. 2019, http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx.
4 Mackenzie, Sarah. “RAR #82: Why Fidgeting Is a Good Sign (and What Brain Science Has to Say about Reading Aloud), Dr. Michael Gurian – Read-Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie.” Read, 7 Aug. 2019, readaloudrevival.com/82/.
5 Short, Kasey. “Reading Aloud to Middle School Students.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 14 May 2019, http://www.edutopia.org/article/reading-aloud-middle-school-students.