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How Does Reading Aloud Improve Literacy Development?

Reading aloud to children before they can even talk is one of the most important elements in literacy development. It develops important skills like recognizing letters and story elements, and it helps children understand that printed type represents the spoken word. Reading aloud also benefits school-age children as they build the foundations of lifelong learning.

Benefits for Teachers

Reading aloud is not just for English classrooms. Teachers in any subject can improve children’s literacy development by reading classroom texts aloud. When a teacher reads aloud, it can help children develop phonological awareness, which is the ability recognize the structure of language. There are students at every grade level who struggle with literacy development, so reading aloud can help them correct those deficits.

Teachers can also expand students’ vocabulary by reading texts with new or unfamiliar words. Teachers can introduce those words correctly, which helps students understand pronunciation and meaning without working through the uncertainty of encountering the words on their own.

Another benefit of teachers reading aloud is that they can stop at certain points of the text and check for understanding or facilitate discussion among the students. The teacher can determine the flow of the story or text and model how to learn from it.

Benefits for Students

Having students read aloud is a straightforward way to advance literacy development. Sometimes, in higher-level classes, students prefer to read aloud because the combination of reading and listening can help them understand the text. These classes can lend themselves to more challenging texts and deeper discussions. When students hear their peers read texts out loud, it can expand their vocabulary and fluency by combining the reading knowledge of the entire classroom. However, whether a teacher should let struggling readers read aloud in class is a topic of debate.

On the one hand, letting struggling readers read aloud in class benefits their literacy development; on the other hand, other students may become bored and read ahead on their own. To help accommodate this diversity of reading abilities, teachers can preview the text with struggling readers and give them shorter sections to read aloud. They can also help them sound out words one-on-one, which can help them develop the confidence to read in front of their peers.

When a student struggles with reading aloud, it is important to let them try to sound out words on their own to develop phonological awareness. Teachers can help position readers of all abilities for success by pronouncing new vocabulary words before asking students to read them on their own — they can also demonstrate the words’ usage in sample sentences.

If a student’s literacy development is a few grades behind his or her classmates’, it can be difficult for him or her to catch up in just one school year. Encouraging reading outside the classroom, reading with parents, and reading aloud can help these students overcome the deficit.

Reading aloud is an essential skill. Parents who begin reading stories to their children at a young age can accelerate their children’s literacy development. However, teachers should still expect struggling readers in every class. Reading aloud with the students and modeling vocabulary can help readers at all levels by expanding vocabulary and modeling usage.

Learn more about the University of Texas at Arlington online M.Ed. in Literacy Studies program.


National Council of Teachers of English: Teacher Read-Aloud That Models Reading for Deep Understanding

Archives of Disease in Childhood: Reading Aloud to Children: The Evidence

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