Language, Literacy, Imagination, and Reading-Aloud


People often ask why I chapter read.  After all, many of the children in my classroom are are three-years-old.  When we chapter read, the children don’t have an image from a picture book.  They have to make the pictures in their head.  That requires language development.  The more they hear, the more they learn.  Even the youngest children benefit enormously.  For example, they may not ‘get’ the humor of the goose repeating everything three times in Charlotte’s Web, but they are still getting a huge dose of language.  And, that language is sparking their imagination.  No pictures; just words pouring into eager, young minds and creating their own images.

I read picture books as well, at least twice a day.  That’s a given!  As in chapter books, we stop to ask questions.  That’s how we learn.  Remember the five W’s and the H?  Who, what, where, when, why and how?  Those are the most important questions, because they are the foundation for stimulating language.  We stop our reading all the time to ask these questions.  When I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it takes forty minutes to get through the book.  Really!  I ask, “How did he get in and out of the garden?”  “This does not look like my house; does it look like yours?”  “Where is this place?”  “How did Rapunzel get into the tower?”  “How was the tower built?”  Questions prompt so much interest and dialogue, not to mention imagination.

Fairy tales seem to spark the most conversation.  It’s no wonder that Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Three Billy Goats Gruff are consistently books that bring words to life, and turn a magical golden key to open imagination.  The world becomes an ocean and children sail with abandon.

Our conversations during chapter reading are often powerful.  Once when we read Doctor Dolittle’s Journey, a sequel to The Story of Doctor Dolittle, a child asked, “Are Indians bad?”.  What an opportunity that question created to talk about acceptance and diversity.  The classroom conversation felt intimate.  It’s not easy for a child to ask a sensitive question in front of the whole class.  Somehow, in the middle of reading aloud a good book, questions feel open, and we talk about everything.

Learning can happen unexpectedly, and reading aloud is often the catalyst.  Children don’t need to sit and listen to a book in silence.  Asking questions is a good thing!

Let me say it again: reading aloud is the gift of language, and language is the most important element in a child’s development and success in school.  Wow!  The number of words a child knows can be directly attributed to his or her success in school; not just in English, but in Math and Science as well.  Perhaps these are the most important words a parent can hear.  Reading aloud is a strong part of my classroom curriculum, and children love it!  The more you read aloud at home increases your child’s development!  The biggest bonus is bonding together.  Nothing beats snuggling with Mom or Dad, one-on-one, reading a book.  Life is good!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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49 Responses to Language, Literacy, Imagination, and Reading-Aloud

  1. Fabulous post. What a great educator you are and I am sure your students and their parents appreciate you. Well done.

  2. When you ask those questions, you are teaching them to THINK. A lost art these days. They are learning how to learn by asking questions. You are doing good work for the world.

    • Jennie says:

      You are so right about thinking. If my young children can do that, they’ll want to learn to read, and they’ll want to ask questions and think. That’s pretty wonderful, and why I’m so passionate about reading aloud. Thank you again, Marlene for all your words. You make me want to keep doing what I do. 🙂

  3. I love your philosophy of teaching, Jennie! Your passion for your job comes across in every post.

  4. Pingback: Language, Literacy, Imagination, and Reading-Aloud — A Teacher’s Reflections – The English Tutor Blog

  5. Gee Jen says:

    I remember reading chapter books with my year 3 teacher (not quite 3 years old though) and it is such a find memory

  6. beetleypete says:

    So nice to hear about someone continuing with education as I remember it from my own childhood. The same books and stories, the same excitement at hearing those unfamiliar names and words; new experiences prompting hesitant questions.
    I recently read about a project in Greece, where an author reads from his book, and an artist encourages children to draw the characters as they imagine them, at the same time. You might enjoy seeing that post, Jennie.
    Best wishes from England. Pete.

  7. srbottch says:

    Wonderful. Reading aloud to our children was one of the best things we did as parents.

  8. I well remember the last half hour at the end of the school day when in the junior School I would be around 8 or 9 years old.. The teacher read the story The Borrowers.. It captured my imagination even though no pictures were there to be seen apart from the outer cover.. I looked forward to the chapters with eager anticipation. 🙂 .. I am sure your pupils look forward to such reading sessions.. 🙂 As my parents never took much interest in our school work.. But you are going back in years lol 🙂 xxx

  9. Another great post, Jennie! I agree whole heartily about your statement that reading aloud time is not a silent time! Teachers wonder why it takes me so long to share a picture book in a story time. The answer is, of course, the questions and the discussion take time. And it’s a big part of the fun of sharing stories! Susan

  10. I loved reading to my children when they were younger, and watching the expressions on their faces change as they listened. Now they read to their own children and hopefully the next generation will do the same. It’s such a lovely way to bond with them. One of our favourite stories was Little House in the Big Woods. Still a favourite of mine.

  11. Dan Antion says:

    We read to our daughter constantly (it seemed). It was fun for all and you could see the difference it made.

  12. Great post! I loved reading aloud to my kids—one on each side with a stack of picture books for us to go through. Chapter books, too, long after they could read them on their own. Two titles in particular I remember we all enjoyed were the Ramona books and Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates (one of our first big classics in original form). Thanks for the memories and for all you do for the next generation!

  13. You obviously are a fabulous teacher. I wish you’d worked for me in my school before I retired!

  14. John Kraft says:

    Ah, imagery.

    Each little brain will take the imagery as far as they are comfortable.

  15. I loved reading fairy tales aloud, too. My favorite was always “Snow White and Rose Red.” I liked that it showed two sisters looking out for each other. And the kids loved to boo the rude dwarf. 🙂

  16. What a great post! Really interesting read. 😀

  17. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Do you have children?
    Are you friends with a child?

    In today’s re-blog, an immensely experienced teacher says:
    “Reading aloud is a strong part of my classroom curriculum, and children love it! The more you read aloud at home increases your child’s development!”

    I have the intuition that it helps the adult, too 🙂

  18. Reblogged this on Sharon E. Cathcart and commented:
    I always loved it when the teacher would read to us. My mom read to me as well, and sometimes my husband still does. I think that being read to helps develop a life-long love of books in the vast majority of cases … and it’s a treat any time.

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