Read alouds can do so much for our students. They can listen to fluent reading, learn about new authors, hear our thinking about vocabulary, character development, plot, and more. So which books make the best read alouds? Well, today, I will be linking up with Tara at Looney’s Lit Blog to share a few of my favorites in her Wild about Read Alouds link up.
Creating a “Wild about Reading” Classroom Environment
Ironically, the theme in my room this year is Wild About Reading. Much of my room will include animal print decorations, a themed reading nook, and we’ll be using our SAFARI notebooks (Students and Families Are Responsible and Informed) to keep us organized. I am definitely wild about welcoming my students to a fun room and keeping them organized to be successful readers. I am also Wild about Reading!
How Reading Alouds Benefit Readers
So who should be Wild About Read Alouds? Everyone…teachers and parents! Why use read alouds? Well, for starters, we model fluent reading. It gives our students an opportunity to hear what good reading sounds like. When you’re reading read alouds, talk about the importance of phrasing, expression, and rate (we slow down for important parts and speed up for less important parts).
Another reason for using read alouds is to model comprehension skills. Some books lend themselves well to specific skills. If you look under the Reading Comprehension or Mentor Text tabs of my blog, you can find a listing of recommended books and the skills they work well for.
In addition to comprehension skills, read alouds provide an opportunity for stretching our students thinking to build schema and prepare the students to read books that are currently too hard later. They also can provide another exposure to information students may be studying in science and social studies. Read alouds should be just above what our students can read with support.
Finally, read alouds (or mentor texts) showcase writing traits that we want our students to imitate. For recommended read alouds by writing trait, go to the Writing tab to the left of my blog.
Reading Alouds I Love
So what books am I wild about? Well, it depends upon the age of the class. For first grade, I recently came across Brian Lies’ Bat series including Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame. I love the playful language Lies uses. Children at this age love rhyme, and they’re curious about bats. I love pairing fiction and nonfiction, so you could share these and move into researching bats with nonfiction titles.
Another favorite for first is Karma Wilson’s Bear series. I love how she weaves into the story juicy words. She doesn’t flood students with too many but includes maybe 6-8 in the book. I love the themes of this series too…friendship, dealing with sickness and greed. I have done reading units on this series. If you’re a first-grade teacher, you might check them out. The activities included are great for modeling comprehension skills for your students. The materials would work well in print or projected on a smartboard. Like the Bat books, the bear books could lead to nonfiction about bears too.
Moving on to second grade. In second, students are beginning to transition into beginning chapter books, but personally, I think it’s important to not jump into chapter books so quickly ourselves. Author studies in second grade are just so fun! Favorite second-grade authors?…Eric Carle, Kevin Henkes, Cynthia Rylant, Arnold Lobel, Mem Fox, and Leo Lionni. Since many of the books these authors write are within the range of a second grader, it works well to choose one or two books by the author as a read aloud for modeling strategies, and then use the rest for skill practice skills in guided reading groups. The authors I have done materials for can be accessed by clicking the author name above which will take you to the materials.
Third through Fifth Grade
Students in third through fifth are becoming more independent in their reading. They’re able to read silently, and oral fluency is really picking up speed. From the reading perspective, the read alouds help polish phrasing and expression. Again, the goal with read alouds can be to extend content area information, expose the students to authors whose books they should consider reading, for skill modeling, and for writer’s craft. Here are a few ideas for each grade.
Jan Brett’s books are written between a 3rd and 4th grade level. They work well as read alouds for younger grades as well. The comprehension skills included in this bundle are geared more to 3rd/4th grades, but could also be used for skill modeling. Although Jan Brett is typically thought of as a “winter author”, she does have a quite a few books for any time of year. Certainly, she’s one author every child should love.
Patricia Polacco is another favorite. I’ve mentioned before, but the fact that she did not learn to read until she was in her teens and was able to overcome such challenges to publish these amazing books is such an inspiration to children everywhere who face learning struggles. This author study bundle includes unit materials for thirteen different titles. If you need other options in the upper grades, be sure to check out books by William Steig, Patricia Maclachlan, and Tomie dePaola too.
For chapter book read aloud, I’m a huge fan of Kate diCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie and the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Roald Dahl is another that fully captures readers. James and the Giant Peach includes amazing vocabulary and is the perfect choice to highlight word choice and writer’s craft. The Brian Series (Hatchet, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return) certainly are page-turners whether the reader is a boy or a girl. Gary Paulsen’s story is also very interesting to research. I met him at the VSRA conference the year before last, and what a treat that was! If you want to hook boys into reading, his books are a great choice to read aloud. Wow, there are just too many to highlight! What are your favorites? Share your comments below.