A Free ‘Oral Vaccine’ for Literacy

Yes, there really is a free oral vaccine for literacy.  It is reading aloud.  No, not reading.  Reading aloud.  Because, in order to become a reader (and a lifelong reader) you have to hear the words – first – over and over again.

When hearing those words becomes a pleasure, like the constant sound of the ocean, the magic has begun.  And those words grow more words.  And you fall in love with words, the sound of words.

You look at words and pictures in books that are read to you and make a connection with the printed word.  By the time you are six, you are eager to read those words on your own.  And you do.  You do well in school, too.  All of those words you have heard for years contributed to your academic success.  You love reading books on your own, yet you still enjoy reading aloud.

People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does.  It expands their interest in books, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and attention span. Simply put, it’s a free “oral vaccine” for literacy.
                                         -Jim Trelease-

This is the most important thing I have learned in my 35 years of teaching.  As such, the priority in my classroom is reading aloud.  My picture books are front facing and always available to children.  I read aloud picture books and chapter reading books.  I tell stories.  I am pouring words into the heads of children.  We laugh, cry, and wonder together.  We have discussions that feel like a third grade classroom.  Words.  Reading aloud.  It works.  It’s the free oral vaccine.  Thank you, Jim Trelease.


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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67 Responses to A Free ‘Oral Vaccine’ for Literacy

  1. beetleypete says:

    You have proven that completely, Jennie. We only have to read your blog to see how successful it is.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. As seen in my most recent post I would love to be able to do more reading aloud. As it is I am grateful that the Sussex Coast Talking news gives me the opportunity to record for partially sighted and blind adults but reading to children, acting the parts as my father used to, is something I miss greatly.It’s no good doing it at a distance. One needs to be with the child or children to see their reactions. Also,saying anything out loud helps the memory. I sometimes tell hubby something just so it sticks. Old age aint fun!

    • Jennie says:

      How wonderful to read aloud to adults who don’t have the eyesight to read on their own. I would love to do that! Perhaps when I retire I can add that to my plate. Acting out the parts, reading with a voice, having children see your face when you read are all key parts of reading in the classroom. Yes, old age ain’t fun, but as long as I have the breath to read aloud, it’s a good thing. Thanks so much, Julie.

  3. quiall says:

    I am glad I was given that vaccine as a child!

  4. joylennick says:

    What a wonderful expression: “Oral vaccine” is.And how true! x

  5. Dan Antion says:

    You know that I fully support this, Jennie!

  6. Darlene says:

    Reading out loud is like a magic potent for the reader and the listener. I had a demanding career and often got home late but I always read to my kids before bed. It gave us some valuable time together and calmed me down too after a long day. My now-adult children remember those times fondly.

    • Jennie says:

      That’s wonderful to hear, Darlene. I think too many parents look upon reading at bedtime as a chore, especially after a long, hard day at work. If they only knew that they would get as much joy as their child in hearing the words. Yes, it is the magic potent! 😀

  7. That’s a very fitting term for it.

  8. A great post, Jennie. I like being read to and listen to lots of audio books while I do things like driving and baking. I always read to my kids and Michael listens to audio books too.

  9. petespringerauthor says:

    Some of the best moments of my teaching career involved reading to my students. I loved that magical phrase, “Don’t stop,” when the twenty minutes were up. I still treasure those times reading to my son when he was a child.

  10. Jim Trelease is another wise man. I wasn’t read to often but as luck would have it, the reading came in two languages. I think that was how my love of words started. My children love reading too because I read to them. Then I had them read to me aloud. I wish, oh how I wish, more parents would take the time. Thank you for this.

    • Jennie says:

      He is a wise man, indeed!! Hearing him speak and being a big fan of his book will always be some of my most important moments. And then he came to my school to hear me read aloud. Can you imagine? I wasn’t read or as a child, either. How wonderful for you to have that reading come in two languages! Did your little sister embrace both languages, too? How is she doing? I loved the stories you wrote about the two of you when you were both little. My love of words really started when my children were little and I read aloud. It was fun to begin with the books I knew and remembered, like Millions of Cats and The Little House (pretty much that’s the end of the list, sadly). I remember our first trip to the library when we moved to Groton, MA. The book on display – Jumanji -our kindergarten daughter had just heard from her teacher. And our preschooler son wanted The Runaway Bunny. That began a lifelong love affair with reading aloud and the public library. I’m so glad you had similar reading aloud experiences with your children, Marlene. Like you I dearly wish parents would take the time to read to their kids. They would be surprised at how much they enjoyed it, too.

      • I was the only one of 4 to get the benefit of a bilingual upbringing. My sister is now on oxygen full time and struggling but still cheerful most of the time. She is trying to get on the transplant list. I’ve opted out. I have no desire to go through all of that. So far, I’m doing pretty well, comparatively.
        Story reading time was when my children told me all their troubles and pleasures of the day. My favorite time of day. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        I’m so sorry to hear about your sister, Marlene. It makes one take stock of how lucky they are. I know what you mean about story reading time being the best time of day. It feels natural to flow from the words of a book to the words of your child. Lovely times!

  11. The best medicine for sure. Good one, Jennie.

  12. Thanks so much, Jennie & Jim Trelease! We’re on to it! 🙂 SHARING!

  13. What a great quote, and I totally agree. It’s so simple and yet incredibly powerful, and it tastes better than kale!

  14. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for this essential message.

  15. frenchc1955 says:

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

  16. lanacurdoglo says:

    You have written it from a place in our hearts that is tender and capable of attracting attention of new readers. It is such a beautiful approach to learning the beauty of a language consisting of words that we sometimes take for granted. Maybe if your approach was a foundation for more children’s education, we would have awakened many more poets and writers as they would express themselves while also mastering comprehension of each word.

  17. Reading, and the love of reading, are two great gifts you’re bestowing. Reminds me the George R R Martin “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. […] The man who never reads lives only one.”

  18. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday 13th January 2020 – #SunshineBlogger Mark Bierman, #Readingaloud Jennie Fitzkee, #Indieshowcase Richard Dee | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  19. dgkaye says:

    Loved the whole post Jennie, and especially the term – oral vaccine for reading! ❤

  20. In my own case, hearing book, stories, and poems read aloud throughout my childhood and early adolescence has had a big impact on my writing. I write poetry by ear, and I edit fiction by ear as well.

  21. CarolCooks2 says:

    Love this post, Jennie your love of reading and teaching shines through… My favourite is reading to my grandkids nearly always the same story although it does get changed up a bit everytime I read… Mickey Monkey is etched on all our brains… Lol x

  22. Totally agree too, Jennie! Thank you for remembering, and best wishes for a beautiful weekend! Michael

  23. Opher says:

    A kid who isn’t read to is a deprived kid.

  24. Opher says:

    Reblogged this on Opher's World and commented:
    Every child should have the wonder of being read to. Not to have that is to be deprived.

  25. Oral vaccine works for me too, Jennie!

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