Ruminating on the Rules of Reading Aloud

Sunday, October 12, 2008.

Today we stray from our standard format to read a few listener comments about the importance of holding an actual book while reading aloud to a group of students. If you feel strongly one way or the other, we’d love to hear your view.

HOTLINE VOICES: An anonymous contributor shares her thoughts about Yoon and the Jade Bracelet (by Helen Recorvits and Gabi Swiatkowska)


Comment by Deb Lund

October 13, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

Book on screen? Book in hand? It depends on your goal. As an author who visits schools, I’ve heard librarians say they prefer visiting authors to read from the book as children watch them, rather than showing the pictures on a screen. It may not be the same reasoning behind the preference, but it’s an insight from people who live for books.

Is the story what you want to convey, or is it the experience of sharing books? One is Story alone, which has a place. The other adds Relationship to the equation. Remember the feeling you got as a child when a teacher read to you? If it’s been a while, like it has for me, I bet you remember some of those books.

When I was a kid, teachers used opaque projectors. Some put books in them so we could all see the pictures. I don’t remember any of those books, but I can tell you at least a half-dozen titles that were read to me by teachers without AV assistance. There was nothing like Mrs. Jacobson the librarian, reading Winnie the Pooh to our first grade class 46 years ago.

Maybe it’s because I’m visual, or imaginative, or I’m just more of a day-dreamer than most, but those memories are strong, and it’s a Heart Thing. Use projection when it best fits your needs, and when you want to instill more than Story into your reading time, leave space to dream.

Comment by Heidi Estrin

October 23, 2008 @ 9:59 am

From 15 years’ experience of reading books to library storytime groups, I have to go with the majority opinion that live-reading is preferable to technologically assisted reading, if your goal is to create a Love Of Reading and a real connection to the book. If you want to get the kids jazzed up and impress the parents, then go with the technology for its cool factor, but as others have noted, the long term impact will be shallower.

The best way would be to read the book first in the traditional way to form a human connection to the story, then to use the document camera afterwords for what it has to offer – the ability to read aloud as a group (or as readers theater), or the ability to examine and discuss the illustrations.

Remember the quote in Jurassic Park about being so excited that you COULD do something that you don’t stop to think if you SHOULD? That’s what classroom technology can be like. I feel that you shouldn’t replace traditional methods with technology unless it offers unique benefits, rather than just a coolness factor.

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