Me: What's wrong?This is the point where I turned away from R. to stare at my computer screen, shake my head, and mouth a few choice words. What kind of teacher believes that kids can't handle being read aloud too? What kind of teacher believes that this is not an academic exercise?
R.: I need to find a way to fill that 15 minute time slot with instruction.
Me: Aren't you going to read aloud?
Me: Why not?
R.: My teacher says the kids can't handle it.
Me: What do you mean, "can't handle it."
R.: Mrs. X. has been teaching a long time (30+ years) and says that these kids are not mature enough and not well-behaved enough. She thinks it will be a classroom management problem.
Me: Uh-huh. What else did she say?
R.: I need to find something academic for them to do.
Months later, I still cannot shake this exchange. Ladies and gentlemen, this was an experienced first grade teacher. Every child/student needs to have books read aloud to them. I read to my middle school students ALL THE TIME. I kept an enormous library of science and math books that they regularly perused and even enjoyed! There were days when they begged me to read aloud. I simply cannot imagine a first grade classroom where the children would NOT want to have a story read aloud to them.
The sad reality here is that as I send more and more students to Title I and Reading First schools, the emphasis is on worksheets and basal readers. There seems to be little reading for enjoyment or modeling of that process. I suppose that is why I try to get my students (preservice teachers) to think about integrating children's literature wherever possible. When they write lessons for math, science and social studies, I require them to look at the English curriculum standards and include those that are appropriate as lesson objectives, recognizing that while we may choose to think about the curriculum in compartmentalized ways, real learning never happens in such a single-subject vacuum.
I still read aloud to students these days, though now it is to college students preparing to be teachers. Sure, they roll their eyes at me sometimes, but what better way to model the very behaviors I want to encourage? The first class of the semester in my Foundations of Math Instruction course I read aloud Math Curse by Jon Scieszka. We spent one whole session on reading and writing in math, where we looked at criteria for evaluating children's literature for use in math and practiced using them to examine a set of books. Last week when I taught counting and number sense, each student selected a book, did a quick review, and shared it with the class while outlining the concepts the book could be used to teach. This week when I begin to teach about place value and understanding large numbers, I will read How Much is a Million and an excerpt from G is for Googol, both by David Schwartz.
Reading aloud has a place in MY classroom, and I'm a college professor. So, where does it belong in the elementary classroom and where does it "fit" in the elementary curriculum? Anywhere and everywhere. Period. No excuses. Any good teacher will tell you so.