2 Building books in common through reading aloud
Developing a rich repertoire of favourite class books and poems through read-alouds is not only a pleasure, but it also enables ‘books in common’ to be established.
The books which we live through together for the sole purpose of shared enjoyment represent a rich resource for conversation, for connection and for spinning webs of reader relationships. Such ‘books in common’ nurture our pleasure in reading and play a particularly resonant role in helping build communities of engaged readers.
For early years, establishing a core set of picture fiction and poetry books, and re-reading them aloud regularly with associated actions and sounds creates a positive shared experience and a sense of community. In re-reading, children increase their familiarity with particular books, which enables them to get to know well-chosen texts in depth and enhances their confidence and capacity to engage in book chat (Rodriguez Leon and Payler, 2021). Many children will choose to return to these books alone and with others and may engage in book-related play. At home, too, families can build books in common through sharing texts aloud and listening to audio books.
In the later years of primary schooling, creating a set of books in common – a shared repertoire – remains important as it can help children make connections to their own and others’ lives, and encourage them to make inter-textual connections. However, reading to children in the home tends to decline once they are able to read to themselves (Farshore, 2020).
Adolescents also beneﬁt from experiencing books in common, especially if the books read to them are high-level interest, are read with fluency and pace and offer challenging narratives that are not ‘dumbed down’ for less experienced readers (Westbrook et al., 2018). Additionally, avid adult readers often report that reading aloud at home and school impacted on their positive dispositions towards reading (Merga, 2017).
Activity _unit6.2.1 Activity 2 Reading aloud in your childhood
Looking back, when were you read to as a child? Was a bedtime story part of your family routine? Do you remember a particular teacher reading aloud to you?
Think back to those memories, then jot down a few memories and make a notes on the following.
- Where were you and what time of day was it?
- How did you feel at those times?
- Who else was with you?
- What books were read?
- What do your recall about them?
Maybe you remember your parents or teachers ‘doing the voices’ and the suspense and sense of warmth the experience evoked. The adult’s own engagement, expressive use of voice and informal invitations to participate, are a key part of the experience and support children’s understanding. Although teachers and parents do not need to be performers, in order to bring the words to life it is important to tune into the music and meaning of the text and use the theatre of your mouth to evoke it. This helps children connect emotionally and grasp the meanings more easily.
Maybe you recalled a sense of togetherness? The shared experience of being read to creates a sense of belonging, closeness and almost an intimacy as the fictional world of the story unfolds and themes are explored alongside trusted adults.
In the home, reading aloud is often a special, private time and space for children and their caregivers. Educators want to offer this to children in school too and allow the young to take the lead, as you will read about in the next section.