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.
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.