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In Defense of Read-Aloud


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About the Author

Dr. Steven L. Layne serves as Chair of Graduate Programs in Literacy Education at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, where he teaches courses at both the Master and Doctoral level. He is a fifteen-year veteran of public education, serving as a classroom teacher and reading specialist in a wide span of grade levels. Steve is a respected literacy consultant, motivational keynote speaker, and featured author, working with large numbers of educators and children during school visits and at conferences held throughout the world each year. His work has been recognized with awards for outstanding contributions to the fields of educational research, teaching, and writing from organizations such as USA Today, the Milken Family Foundation, the Illinois Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Illinois Reading Council, and the International Literacy Association.


There is something very special that takes place in classrooms where teachers spend time daily reading aloud to students. In his new book, In Defense of Read-Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice, Steven Layne clearly articulates research-based reasons why reading aloud to students benefits their literacy development. Research overwhelmingly supports the positive impact of reading aloud to students. Reading aloud increases comprehension, enhances early reading skills and speaking skills, improves vocabulary acquisition, improves parental involvement and student motivation. From a student's perspective, listening to teacher read-alouds benefits their syntactic development, vocabulary acquisition, comprehension, and fluency, as well as reading skills such as pronunciation and inflection. Read-alouds improve students' writing, engagement, attitudes, and understanding of text types. They broaden students' thinking and imagination, and improve cultural sensitivity. They build rapport between teacher and students, and they deepen emotional intelligence.

Layne calls us to be prepared to intelligently respond to the question, why are you reading
aloud? In the context of high-stakes testing and accountability, every single moment of classroom life comes into focus. Teachers are often unprepared to defend the practice of reading aloud when it is implied that read-aloud is not a good use of instructional time.

"If someone asks you why you're reading aloud to the third graders and your first response is
"Because it's so much fun, and we all enjoy it," we're in trouble. Big trouble. We're not in trouble because you're wrong. No, it's fine to include that as the seventeenth bullet point of your calculated and confidence-inspiring response. We're in trouble because that's too fluffy an answer to be your first go-to when someone is questioning your pedagogy. You sound like a Smurf. Stop it. You're an educator--you need to sound like one (Layne, 2015, p. 11)."

Steven Layne provides practical and important tips to help you establish read-aloud time in your classroom. He gives practical advice about selecting appropriate read-aloud texts and suggests ways to structure read-aloud time that protect the integrity of the activity and build a positive, respectful classroom climate. Layne also offers suggestions for launching a new read-aloud book and integrating read-alouds into the daily routine of the classroom. He sprinkles the book with expert testimonials, expert position statements, letters between teachers and authors, and practical application of solid research. This wide variety of voices blends together seamlessly to support the love of reading aloud.

Layne's voice is strong and clear in this book--you can feel his passion for this topic. His sense of humor is refreshing and it rings true--so much that I found myself laughing and refreshed, as if I were reading a great beach book. Moreover, the book is so comfortably written it feels more like you are having a conversation in a cozy coffee shop, sitting in a big overstuffed chair next to the fireplace. All the while, Layne provides a great reminder of the value and importance of reading aloud daily to students of all ages: "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children (Anderson et al., 1985)."
Michigan Reading Journal, Aug 2016

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