Indiana Reading Journal Volume 44 Issue 1 - Page 49

I was perplexed by what was happening. I observed that other teachers were ignoring the power in reading aloud, in lieu of lessons about isolated standards and test-taking practice. Although at the writing of this article I have found no recorded data, (and I suspect teachers are afraid to admit it), my career experiences have allowed me to see that this was spreading from school to school, leaving scars deep into the grain of what we all know are best practices. It seemed as if read-aloud had become a covert form of educational “warfare”, practiced only by those who were brave enough, or lucky enough to not get caught. Subsequently, I continued to ask myself, “What kind of classrooms are we existing in, if we cannot exercise our students’ rights to learn through the time-honored and proven form of instruction known as the read aloud?”

Fortunately, this was about the time that I read, In Defense of Read Aloud Sustaining Best Practice by Steven L. Layne (2015). After reading the book, I felt as though I had attended a motivational conference. I was inspired to take a stand. Layne not only justified the need for read aloud, he made me want to rally for it. This article is a summary of what I learned by reading the book, and is my effort to recap for you the key points.

I enjoyed Layne’s playful use of words, and figurative language, as well as his common sense approach. I chuckled as I read his tongue-in-cheek answers to fictitious letters that carried the many themes of all the doubts stirring in teachers who want to read aloud, but are afraid to. Although his answers were in jest, Mr. Layne was able to bring his point home, again and again.

Somehow, Layne’s writing brought out a sense of duty in me, so I’ve chosen to write attempting to be a catalyst for change. Upon conclusion of the book, I felt the need to defend the rights of my fellow educators to have the opportunity to freely and openly teach with read aloud as a form of instruction. Layne’s writing style inspired me to write what I hope becomes a rallying point (or at least a talking point) for those colleagues who agree about read-aloud: the reading patriots! (If some of you patriots are starting to notice I am barraging you with an arsenal of military terms, you are correct! Because Layne focuses on common-sense ways to defend the read aloud, I hoped for my writing to be mildly reminiscent to the spirit in which Steven Paine wrote Common Sense, in 1776)

I assert that Layne is looking for reading “patriots” like you and I to take a stand. When I continued reading In Defense of Read-Aloud, I could hear the command to those of us who will take up the cause and do the work necessary to emancipate the read aloud. We are to give it the time and credit it deserves, and restore it to what it should be.

Layne describes a two-part division that is getting in the way of read-aloud. On one side, you have what Layne calls the “well meaning” (p. 11). This would be those who do not have knowledge of the latest support for read-aloud as an instructional best practice. He includes well-intentioned parents, administrators, and even some of your colleagues in this group. They equate read aloud to recess, or “fluff”. On the other side, there are those who “know literacy” (p. 11). These are the teachers like you, who take the time to read, research, and stay updated on best practices in reading instruction.

Here is the battle cry: It’s time to launch great read-alouds in your classrooms. The time is now to enlist our common sense, speak up and share what you know to stand up for our students in regard to read-aloud. I believe Layne desires that we be patriots for our students. Layne cites so many studies that prove read-aloud is healthy, educationally-sound instruction that educators at all levels must take on the calling. (It’s like our “draft notice” if you will.) Layne’s promotion of the educational attributes of read-aloud makes it easy to defend these obvious truths. To prove this point, I will list the benefits Layne claims (pp.8- 9). The following bullet points acknowledge research-based benefits of read-aloud. Consider them a rallying point for you, whether you are the fearful teacher, the naysayer, or new to teaching. Layne discusses that researchers have proven that read aloud strengthens:

Vocabulary acquisition- (Beck and McKeown 2001; Kindle 2009; McGee and Schickedanz 2007, Routman 2003; Santoro, Chard, Howard, and Baker 2008; Sinatra 2008)