Thursday, February 11, 2010

Teen Read-Alouds

"If birth is the right time of life to start reading aloud, when is the right time of day? Whenever possible and as often as possible." ~ Mem Fox

Most of you already know I teach high school English. Two things I strongly believe are missing from today's high school curricula are character education and teacher read-alouds. When kids are in elementary school, we know they need to be taught and reminded of how to treat others. We know they love being read to and that it's good for them at that age. At what point do those things cease being important?

From my high school classroom perspective, I know without doubt that my students still need and can benefit from both lessons. We all remember how difficult some of the social structures in high school can be - the lines are clearly drawn, territories painfully obvious. Character education should be a critical part of daily learning for teens.

But what about reading? We all know what reading does for kids. I know from first-hand experience how much all teens love to be read to, but especially teen boys. Surprised? It is the best way I know of to get non-reader boys to fall in love (or back in love) with books. At the beginning of this school year, I read aloud two chapters of The Lightning Thief in my lower-level, at-risk class. The students in this class are all below-grade-level readers who claim they HATE reading. Since then, my son's collection of Percy Jackson books has made its way through almost every student, all boys. Mem Fox says that, "Most people, if asked the best time to read aloud to adolescent boys, would probably say never! But they would be wrong."

Better Than Life
by Daniel Pennac is a book about reading aloud to older children. Mem Fox highly recommends the book and describes it like this:

Its focus is adolescents, mainly boys, who've been turned off reading altogether. In an elegant and moving manner, Pennac explains how he switches his students back into loving books and reading. What's his secret? Reading aloud.

How do you feel about reading aloud to older children?


Jonathon Arntson said...

Hey, superbly different post!

I love the idea of reading to older children, but I am personal filled with fear and grief at the thought. I watch Scott Westerfeld and John Green read their own novels to audiences and you can see the belief in their own work in the eyes and hear it on their voices.

I suppose reading someone else's work would be doable, for me. I like to discuss literature and have a long conversation about the characters.

If writing doesn't pan out for me, teaching literature or English classes is my backup.

Unknown said...

I think it feels strange...but I'm not one for reading aloud at all.

Carolyn V. said...

Last summer, my husband read outloud to all of our older kids (one in his teens, another close to teenage years). They loved it! They were always asking when dad was going to read more to them. It was a great experience that I hope we will continue.

Shelley Sly said...

This is such an interesting tidbit, and something I will have to keep in mind. I never would have suspected that boys enjoy listening to stories more.

I did discover last year, while substituting for a 5th grade class (not quite teenagers) that even kids as old as 10 and 11 years old enjoy being read to. After they took turns reading parts of The Indian In The Cupboard, one girl suggested I read. I had their full attention (even those students who were previously whispering and ignoring the story) and they were disappointed when reading time was over.

Interesting how reading aloud affects kids and teens!

Joshua McCune said...

Read-alouds are great, particularly if you're an aural person. My wife, who prefers to see the words, frequently reads to me, which I really enjoy.

Mary E Campbell said...

I like this, very interesting post. Great job reading to those boys and getting them interested in reading. Reading opens up so much and boys who read are so much more well rounded.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

I taught Special Ed for a bit and I TOTALLY agree that reading aloud to teens is beneficial and necessary. And not just Special Ed teens, all teens. ESPECIALLY the boys, you are so right on!!

It really does help to spark interest in reading--and for those who unfortunately sneak by with less than par reading levels, it allows them to feel more comfortable in a class of peers at higher reading levels (and quickens their own learning process).

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Jonathon - It doesn't matter whose work you read, as long as you read aloud.

Marybeth - So sad.

Carolyn - That's awesome. I hope he keeps reading to them.

Shelley - Yes! They hang on every word, no matter how old they are.

Bane - That is so cool.

Mary - Thanks!

Sara - Thank you Sara. That's it exactly. :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I think it's a great idea!

I'm reading Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for the first time right now and loving it. I think it would be a great book to read aloud!

Kelly Polark said...

I was one of the few that didn't know you were a teacher! (Hurray for teachers!) I agree on both: readalouds and character education should be done at that level. Some kids lose their love for reading at that time due to busy schedules, it's nice to let them relax and be lost in another world for part of their stressful day.
I still read to my fifth grader at night, I wonder how long he'll let me!

Guinevere said...

I never would have thought that adolescent teens would love being read to, especially boys! That's interesting. I am not as good at processing the spoken word as I am at processing the written word, so I usually avoid audio books and the like, but there's something different about story spoken live.

Karen Harrington said...

What comments! My blog rarely gains the notoriety of this wonderful cyber-spot.

Statue envy, you say? That statue (on my blog) is from The Garden of Good and Evil by John Grisham. You could probably find it on-line. I did! I wanted it so much after visiting the real bird-girl in Savannah, GA!

Kimberly Franklin said...

Aww... I remember teacher read-alouds. They were great! : D

Laurel Garver said...

I remember my parents always reading aloud on our long car trips from PA to MT to visit the grandparents, even though some of my sibs were nearly college aged. It was just a fun bonding experience to enjoy a book together and discuss it.

So many of my guy friends in HS were big readers. We all got into the Dune books (SF by Frank Herbert) and would sit around at lunch talking about them. We would have totally been into sharing a book on tape together had any of us thought of that!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Way back when I was still teaching HS English, I, too, read aloud and was always comforted by the way they all settled in and listened. One day, I pulled out a pic book and showed it to the Juniors in my class. My point was to show them that a young girl had gotten published. Before I knew what was happening, they sat on the floor at my feet while I read aloud, just like when they were in elementary school. I miss that group of juniors. They were also the group that reminded me that they still like candy and that I could treat them on special days like Valentine's Day!

We never get too old to enjoy hearing someone read to us. It is comforting, soothing, and brings us back to the nest.

An older couple confessed at our book club that the wife reads aloud every night before they go to sleep. A novel, the bible, a poem. Sigh. I'd love to have that.

Read on!

Jemi Fraser said...

I nodded and smiled all the way through this! I read every single day to my students and always have. When I taught grade 8, I got my students pretty much addicted to SE Hinton & Agatha Christie. One year, they even begged me to read aloud on bus trips to field trips :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Kristen - I agree. I think my girls would love that.

Kelly - He'll let you for as long as you're willing! :)

Guinevere - My teens love any books read aloud: PB's, non-fiction, fiction - it doesn't matter.

Karen - I'm sure you saw my response on your blog. Ha ha. :)

Kimberly - Yes!

Laurel - PA to MT is one heck of a road trip. That must have been the perfect way to kill the miles.

Mary - My HS kids love PB's too. They do the obligatory whine and seat-shift routine the first time or two, but then they beg for them. :)

Jemi - You are a great teacher! I wish more teachers of older students would read more to their students.

Kelly said...

In my 9th grade english class the teacher read 3-5 pages aloud to us everyday. We all really liked it, and it tied into the Arthurian legends we had been reading, but was by a modern author. I remember that the book was about Mordred but I don't remember the book.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Reading aloud to older kids is really important! They need it. We need it. Reading aloud, and listening to someone read aloud, are important skills. They help us build our imaginations, our reading comprehension, and our enjoyment of books, words, and characters.
Currenty, I home school with my two daughters, and we read aloud every day. Many years ago, I substitute taught at the middle school and high school level. For a reward for good behavior, and sometimes just as a filler, I often read aloud to older kids. They loved it, and once they knew that I would, they would ask for it again and again.
I am often saddened by the fact that I have friends and family who state proudly that their children have "grown up enough to read for themselves and don't need to be read to anymore." My kids read above their grade level, and they still love our read aloud time.

We never get too old to listen to stories. If we did, the movie industry would go belly up, and there wouldn't be any audio books available at bookstores and the library.

Christina Farley said...

My students love it. Plus I think it still stimulates the imagination.

Sherrie Petersen said...

My son is 10 and he reads a ton himself, but he still likes snuggling up on the sofa or in bed and listening to me read. Even my husband likes being read to :)

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