Lisa Pinkerton is a contributing author to Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework.
My favorite literacy practice is Interactive Read-Aloud (IRA), which I view as the foundation of any literacy block. IRA is a daily instructional practice that takes only 15-20 minutes and complements any literacy curriculum or program. Teachers who wish to foster book joy and promote strategic thinking need look no further than this highly engaging and responsive artform.
General Setting and Structure
Sitting together on the floor near the teacher, students listen to the teacher read aloud, most often from a picture book. She uses her voice, gestures, and expressions to bring the story alive through her genuine love of the book. Stopping at two or three places, the teacher invites students to engage in deep thinking and conversation. These stopping points are planned and purposeful; they provide students with the opportunity to build conversation and share their thinking about the text. Questions such as What are you thinking? What are you wondering? and What are you noticing? invite students to think broadly and deeply. It is most beneficial if students can sit in a circle. When students can see each other’s faces, they are able to respond to each other in a more authentic manner.
Benefits of Interactive Read Aloud
Because the teacher reads the book aloud, students are freed to think inferentially and analytically about the text, which fosters deep meaning-making. IRA creates a collaborative literacy environment, one in which students are actively engaged in constructing meaning together with their peers. IRA also helps to promote a shared language for talking about texts as well as responding to the thinking of others. Thus, the literacy community supports each individual in creating a deeper understanding of the text than they could create on their own. Whole-group IRA experiences build students’ ability to think and talk critically about texts during other reading contexts, such as guided reading and independent reading.
The aim of Interactive Read-Aloud is to engage readers in the creation of a shared reading experience, one that fosters relationships between students, books, and teachers. Walking in the shoes of characters with experiences unlike their own can help to expand students’ understandings of what it means to be human, building empathy for others. Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at The Ohio State University, created a powerful metaphor that helps guide how teachers might think about the selection of texts to read aloud. Bishop conceives of books as windows and mirrors: window books give readers access to lives and experiences different from their own; mirror books allow readers to see themselves reflected in the books they read. Teachers have a responsibility to ensure that all students have access to both window and mirror books in their classroom reading experiences. IRA has the power and potential to give students access to books that both validate their own lived experiences and expose them to experiences outside their own.
When a teacher shares a book that she loves with her students, she nurtures book joy, providing opportunities for students to grow a love of books and reading. My students, from preschool to college age, have felt that same read-aloud joy. Interactive Read-Aloud brings the magic of stories alive in vibrant classroom communities. The beneﬁts from this highly supportive classroom practice, one that takes just 15–20 minutes a day, are exponential.
Photo via Scholastic