“You want to know the main reason I came?” a former student asked me at a book signing for Yoder School. “To hear you read to me one more time.”
Now a grown-up professional, he said this with emotion in his voice and a suspicious moistness in his eyes.
And I heard some form of these words several times that evening.
“While you were reading,” another student said, “I just closed my eyes, and it took me back to you reading in class long ago.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I have, after all, long believed in reading aloud to students of all ages. Still, these reactions were striking to me. And I thought back to when I read to elementary students and middle school and even to college classes.
Reading aloud, I found, made practical pedagogical sense. Reading levels usually lag behind listening levels. And so reading aloud provides a scaffold for independent reading. My intonation and emphasis as I read to them enriched students’ vocabulary, demonstrated decoding, and uncovered concepts they may have missed reading alone. Read-alouds pulled students into new genres, introduce them to new authors, and stimulate their curiosity about new ideas.
But what I liked the most about reading to my students was the bonding. Together we peeked into other lives and times and places. Story synced our brain patterns into a common beat. I could see oxytocin, the empathy hormone, at work. Their shoulders relaxed or their eyes shimmered or their eyebrows rose. In the books we saw ourselves and understood each other more. Reading aloud transformed text into a social activity, drew us into community.
“Thanks for reading again,” they told me, these grown-up students of mine. And I, too, was grateful for a chance to read one more time.