Research has highlighted the importance of children reading aloud in class to teachers and friends, and at home to parents, siblings and even pets.
A safe and supportive environment and a conscious effort by teachers to dissociate reading aloud purely with some form of testing or task were also seen as key to helping youngsters improve their skills.
Dr Margaret Merga interviewed Year 4 and 6 students from 24 schools across Western Australia about their attitudes toward ‘interactive reading’ – reading aloud to others and being read to. The Murdoch University academic reports her findings in the Australian Journal of Education (AJE).
Merga says there’s little research into older children’s experiences in this area, once they’ve moved beyond initial independent reading skill acquisition. She adds teachers can struggle to find time for interactive reading beyond the first years of primary school, despite the many benefits. ‘Reading aloud to an interested audience can provide opportunities for children to improve their oral fluency and pronunciation, and to [check comprehension].’
The AJE paper reports that some of the children interviewed had no one reading to them at school or at home. Discussing school contexts, Merga says shared reading has been associated with increasing student learning engagement, motivation and enjoyment. Some students interviewed used reading aloud to solidify friendships and enjoyed the social aspect of it, while others found listening to others read relaxing, good for their mood and a chance to learn new vocabulary.
At home, children were involved in different social exchanges, reading aloud to pets – including dogs and birds – sometimes because it was a more relaxing and less stressful experience than reading to a sibling or parent.
However, not all the children’s experiences and attitudes were positive. ‘Embarrassment and fear clouded the prospect of reading aloud when children in this study lacked the confidence and skills to read well,’ Merga writes. Other children said they were scared they would be laughed at if they made a mistake or were anxious about their lack of fluency and expression.
Merga tells Teacher that educators can support students by providing them with continuing opportunities to practise their skills in a safe space – in front of a small, friendly audience, not just the whole class or in a test situation, in pairs, and with friendly volunteers and education assistants.References: Merga, M. K. (2017). Interactive reading opportunities beyond the early years: What educators need to consider. Australian Journal of Education, 0004944117727749.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.