A Story of Reading Aloud

Author Kate DiCamillo tells a childhood story of her teacher reading aloud, when she was in second grade.  It is powerful.  She remembers every detail… including the class bully.

“It’s 1972, and I’m 8 years old and in second grade at Clermont Elementary in Clermont, Florida.

The classroom floors are wood, and there’s a ticking clock on the wall, and there’s a chalkboard, and there are mottoes to live by strung up above it. And the teacher, Ms. Boyette, is wearing cat eyeglasses with glinting rhinestones.

She’s reading aloud to us from “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” And we have just come to a part of the book where the main character tames a wild dog, a wild dog. And I’m literally on the edge of my seat. I’m listening, listening, caught up in the wonder of at all. I’m a kid who loves a story.

But also in that second grade classroom seated not too far away from me, there’s a class bully. Because I am so terrified of this boy, he doesn’t even seem real to me. He is, in my mind, less a boy and more a monster.

In any case, Ms. Boyette is reading. And I look over at this boy because he is someone I am very much in the habit of keeping an eye on. And I notice that he is listening too, that he is engaged by the story, that he, like me, is leaning forward in his seat and listening with his whole heart.

I stare at him, open-mouthed. I’m struck with a sudden knowledge that this boy that I’m so afraid of is in fact just like me. He’s a kid who likes a story.

The boy must feel my eyes on him, because he turns. He sees me seeing him, and something miraculous happens. He smiles at me. Really. And then another miracle. I, unafraid, smile back. We’re two kids smiling at each other.

Why have I never forgotten this small moment? Why, almost 50 years later, do I still recall every detail of it? I think it’s because that moment illustrates so beautifully the power of reading out loud.

Reading aloud ushers us into a third place, a safe room. It’s a room where everyone involved, the reader and the listener, can put down their defenses and lower their guard. We humans long not just for story, not just for the flow of language, but for the connection that comes when words are read aloud. That connection provides illumination. It lets us see each other.

When people talk about the importance of reading aloud, they almost always mean an adult reading to the child.

We forget about the surly adolescent and the confused young adult and the weary middle-aged and the lonely old.

We need it too. We all need that third place, that safe room that reading out loud provides. We all need that chance to see each other.”

-Kate DiCamillo-

Here is the link to the video of her telling this story:



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.
This entry was posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, storytelling and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to A Story of Reading Aloud

  1. Mischenko says:

    I love this! No wonder she’s such an amazing storyteller. We are reading The Tale of Despereaux now and enjoying it. 💖💖💖 Thanks for sharing this, Jennie!

  2. Oh Jennie, I am so touched! What a powerful story of how reading aloud can be a bridge to resolve differences between people. It reminds me of how there are so many keys to create empathy, kindness and compassion. Thank you very much – I’m so glad I saw this. Blessings to you. Debbie ❤

  3. Ritu says:

    What a wonderful story!

  4. And there you go, Jennie, spreading more of the magic many of these children need… bullies and ballerinas all need hope regardless of who they are. Thank you for all that you do. 💘

  5. Annika Perry says:

    A beautiful tale and thank you so much for sharing, Jennie!

  6. beetleypete says:

    That’s a great story to illustrate the power of reading aloud. It reminded me of the old adage that music can soothe the savage beast. In this case, it was reading. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. Norah says:

    This is wonderful, Jennie. I’ve got it earmarked for inclusion in a December post also. 🙂

  8. GP Cox says:

    I never quite thought of it that way, but you and Kate are so right.

  9. Darlene says:

    A fabulous post! I love how this amazing writer shows by example how much reading aloud can affect children. Thanks for sharing. And to think you actually met her!!

  10. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story, Jennie.

  11. To experience such a wonderful revelation at such a young age is almost miraculous. I think something like that changes who we are. Thanks for sharing this story.

    • Jennie says:

      I think you are right, Marlene. She recalled every detail, surely a sign of something miraculous. It really does change who we are. Her writing reflects much of this sort of thing.

  12. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, Thank you for another wonderful post!

  13. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another wonderful post from the extraordinary teacher, Jennie!

  14. This is an extraordinary story, Jennie. Thank you for sharing.

  15. That’s a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it in your post!

  16. That’s a really lovely tale!

  17. Reading aloud also makes you slow down, listen to the cadence and sound of the words — every word — because in reading aloud there is no skimming, no jumping ahead. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of all the flavors for the tongue!

  18. Jennie this is a lovely post. It’s nice to meet Kate. Thanks for hosting her. Hugs to you both.

  19. What a powerful story you have shared Jennie.. I loved Story time too… at the end of the day our teacher on certain days would read one chapter of a book.. The book I remember so well was the Borrowers.. I think I shared that before… But it still to this day sticks in my mind.. As I would visualise the little people beneath the floorboards.. 🙂
    Many thanks for sharing. ❤

  20. wilsonagaba says:


  21. shoes says:

    This is beautiful! I teach third grade, and I make time everyday to read aloud (just for fun, mind you – not curriculum material or standards based texts).

  22. dgkaye says:

    Underneath it all, we are all human. I’m glad the bully’s human side shined through. 🙂

  23. So beautiful! Libraries were always my refuge as a kid, and the school librarians were to thank in part for that. I loved the stories they introduced us to.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you! I wish I could say that libraries were my refuge as a child. No one read to me, except my grandmother at times. I can only remember being in a library one time as a child. Needless to say, I have come a very long way. Kate DiCamillo is a favorite author. Like you, I absolutely love this story that she tells.

      • Thank God for grandmothers :). My great-grandmother actually had me read aloud to her when I was a kid, which helped my shy self learn to speak a little louder!

      • Jennie says:

        I know exactly what you mean. Grandmothers are the best, all knowing and full of heart. I love your grandmother story. Thank you!

  24. even-stevens says:

    Here, Here. To the power of a good story.

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