Was it something a parent read? Was it read aloud by a teacher? Was it something you read independently?
I don't know if you remember those first books, but I do! I mentioned how my parents read me classics such as the Little House on the Prairie series and The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of the first novels I ever remember having visualized in 2nd grade.
In fourth grade, our teacher read aloud The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. There was no unit. There were no comprehension worksheets. We just read and talked, read and talked. The 10-20 minutes after lunch each day were my favorite because of this book. Those read-alouds launched me into a love for historical fiction. I remember my sweet librarian directing me towards The Orphan Train Quartet series, and I read them all.
Did your teach read-aloud a book that left an impression with you?
Think about yourself as an adult. Do you have times where you've been out of reading? It's been a month or two since you picked up a book, maybe? And when you first start up again, it's "hard to get into it," right?
It is hard to get into, because you probably haven't used your brain for such deep visualizations in a while....
And once you "get back into reading," you're there...
The deep visualizations and comprehension are there. You are there with the characters in your mind. Hopefully you can't put it down. You are there. That's the level of comprehension we want for our students.
How do we get our students THERE?
Students, like us, need to "get back into reading"...or maybe, they need to "get into reading" for the very first time. I saw it every.single.day. in fifth grade. Students who could decode beautifully, and read with great fluency, and they saw little to nothing in their brains.
When I first start a novel, it takes me a few chapters to begin seeing the characters and setting clearly, but by the end, I see it all. My mind's eye is stretching and getting practice.
This is the same for our students, and maybe it was the same for you as a student? This brings me to a few principles I've determined over the years.
Principle 1: Novels bring our minds to a place of deep comprehension and visualization.
Principle 2: Parents are first teachers, always.
My parents taught me to visualize. I'm sure they weren't sitting in bed at night discussing how I was going to learn to visualize. But, they taught me. Many students have had this opportunity with their families. Sadly, many haven't.
Principle 3: You cannot undo what happens in the home, but you can work to compensate for it with rich literacy experiences.
These principles are my biggest argument for reading novels in the classroom. But, I really want to clarify what I mean by "reading novels."
Do novel studies have a place in the modern classroom?
It depends....Balance in all things.
Novel studies in the past would have the entire reading block focused on the reading of the novel, maybe followed by some comprehension questions or a quiz. I grew up on these, and I turned out fine. However, I'm not sure if this is the best practice for students today.
Novel studies aren't bad, but if that is all you did all year, you would also be depriving your students of all of the other genres, such as biographies, poetry, or persuasive text.
Not to mention, literacy station, reader's workshop or other frameworks that foster independence! These are important too...
So, I would say the extensive use of novel studies while neglecting other best practices is not a great idea.
Too many times, I went to set up my reader's workshop with fifth graders... We watched book trailers, we got excited about learning all about books that would interest us, we build stamina, we did it all right.
But when it was time to read independently, I knew in my heart that SO many of my students were not truly reading and visualizing their book. And all that time was wasted.
Independent reading is a waste if students aren't comprehending. And, don't fool yourself, if they write two sentences in their reading journal about what happened, there's still a chance they didn't grasp it.
You can't just throw students a novel that looks cool to them and expect great reading. (this is especially true if you work in a setting where literacy experiences are not happening in the home)
Because of this, I am a proponent of some novel studies, but not in massive amounts.
I am a huge proponents of 5-10 minutes a day of read-alouds.
Read-alouds are NOT a waste of time. Read-alouds allow students to enter those deep visualization without the pressures of decoding or worksheet or STAAR questions.
Read-alouds bring SO much engagement, and make students excited to come to class to hear the next part.
Read-alouds train their minds to visualize and practices those muscles.
Read-alouds expose students to other worlds, cultures and time periods.
Read-alouds can help compensate for shared literacy experiences that do not happen in the home.
Read-alouds build empathy.
Read-alouds can hook students into a genre or series and help them go on to read more.
Read-alouds are rich. They are only a small investment of time, but they can reap big gains.
Read-alouds can dip into a bit of study for quality lessons, and text from those read-alouds can be used later in the year to teach certain skills.
I am TOTALLY preaching to the choir if you are a teacher, because every teacher I know does this.
However, I know WAY too many teachers doing this in fear. Fear of being "caught" not working explicitly on the posted objectives. Fear of a bad performance review. I skipped read-alouds on days when I knew district administrators would be in the building. Isn't that sad?
Read-alouds lead to every objective that pertains to comprehension, and I was fearful about that? Fearful even though I did it for less than 10 minutes a day in conjunction with mini-lessons, literacy stations and other rigorous lessons? Craziness.
Maybe this is a whole other post to write, but it breaks my heart to see teachers work under fear. It cripples them from doing their most beautiful work.
This post has been long, and maybe I've been on my soap box too long. I would LOVE any kind of feedback on this. What happens with this in your school? Are you allowed to read aloud? Do you have pre-planned novel studies from your district at the elementary level?