Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 48

Common Sense: Declaring Read-Aloud Independence

A book review for In Defense of Read Aloud by Steven L. Layne

Reviewed by Kathy Pollock


As a literacy patriot, in my situation, I had tried for years to be active for change in what was happening in education. Finding time to get involved at a local or state political level was difficult, especially when I had lesson plans to write, standards to align with them, papers to score, and an exorbitant amount of “everyday” teacher tasks to complete. And as legislation and district mandates continued to change my fate, I finally surrendered to the reality that the representatives I had been writing to did not understand education, nor did they seem to care about what their constituents wanted. After many unanswered letters to my political leaders, as well as receiving a few form letters explaining to me how important all the mandates were (and that I didn’t quite see the big picture), I realized I was wasting my time trying to take a stand with policy makers. The more I tried, the less I felt I was making an impact. Although I was pushed by my conscience to try harder to become a defender of education, and an ally for the art of read-aloud, I felt powerless to do so. I retreated to the classroom, hoping to continue to do my best teaching using read-aloud, despite how much that may have felt like a covert operation. I had forgotten the wealth of power that research could bring to the table.

This was about the time that I found and read Steven Layne’s book, In Defense of Read-Aloud, Sustaining Best Practices (2015). This book gave me the ammunition I needed to begin to help myself and others understand the instructional best practices that could be implemented through read-aloud. Reading it was a self-revelation: I realized now I had been equipped all along; While suggesting that I become a leader in literacy, Mr. Layne made me realize that I “have a rationale that can be articulated with confidence to anyone who asks”(p.11).

The title, which drew me to the book in the first place, proved to give me enthusiasm to rally. In Defense of Read-Aloud, Sustaining Best Practices helped me to develop a healthy execution plan for my passion: preserving the act of reading aloud. Defense…Yes! That is exactly what I needed to do. Defend read aloud with the research, the research that Steven Layne does a wonderful job of citing, just as well as he inspires us to carry on with the beautiful instructional strategy of reading aloud to students. After reading Layne’s book, I immediately had the confidence that there was something I could do for the cause, something that would impact my students for a successful future as well as push them to new heights of understanding. This sense of validation and confidence is what inspired me to write this, in hopes to encourage as many literacy patriots and read-aloud advocates as possible to read Steven Layne’s book.

Common Sense: Declaring Read-Aloud Independence

Are you a literacy patriot? Do those who know you well know you have a passion for children’s literature and reading aloud to students? Are you notorious for having literacy-related bulletin boards, field trips, writing activities, and science experiments, all related to reading aloud? Do colleagues who know you acknowledge that you are a soldier from the “trenches”, someone who has often taught his or her best lessons using read aloud as a “hook” for a lesson? Are you constantly hungering for new material to include in your “arsenal” of read-aloud activities?

The traits mentioned above summarize what I believe has been true for many educators, including myself, for quite some time. In my previous roles as classroom teacher, reading specialist, and instructional coach, I’ve both taught and witnessed hundreds of best practices when purposeful read-aloud was used to enhance instruction. More recently, I have witnessed read-aloud being treated as some sort of risky, unsafe, and shameful, covert operation. I have heard about, as well as seen teachers who carefully peek into the hallway, and if the area shows no signs of incoming judgement, they close their doors, and retreat quietly to their reading “corners” for a read-aloud.