By: Beth Richards
One of the most powerful tools parents and teachers have to support literacy development is reading aloud. Reading aloud to children provides opportunities for them to learn how stories work, hear literary language, access texts they cannot read independently, and develop comprehension. It can lead to conversations about reading and related topics.
Right now, parents and teachers find themselves concerned with the effects of the pandemic on children's development; during this time, we can reach for the powerful tool of reading aloud to help meet the academic and social-emotional needs of children.
What Is Social-Emotional Learning?
Social-emotional learning aims to help children acquire skills necessary to manage emotions, set goals, show empathy, build relationships, and demonstrate thoughtful decision-making. These skills can be taught in a variety of ways, and adult–child interactions during this teaching are essential. Let’s walk through how teachers and parents can use read-alouds to help develop social-emotional learning.
First, select quality texts that help support the aspect of social-emotional learning you are trying to teach. Some topics of interest for kindergarten and first-grade students (with related books in parentheses) include these, from the series Kaleidoscope Collection:
● Bullying (Am I a Bully?; Sophia and the Bully)
● Dealing with emotions (A Bad Day; The Great Big Thing)
● Friendships and relationships (The Friendship Shell; Buddy Boy and His Skateboard)
● Growth mindset and working hard to reach a goal (Molly’s Bike; The Glove)
Setting the Purpose for Reading
After you’ve selected a text, think about how to set the purpose for reading. Here are a few strategies to get children ready to read:
● Share a personal anecdote related to the text.
● Prompt students to activate their background knowledge and link a personal experience.“Think about a time when you felt nervous because you wanted to do something, but you thought it would be too hard for you to do.”
● Give them a quick introduction to the text and then focus their attention on the big idea. “Our character Molly is nervous too, just like you were! In this story, Molly’s Bike, Molly is nervous to learn how to ride her bike without the training wheels. As we read today, think about what helped Molly get over her fears.”
Determine Stopping Points
Prior to starting the text, make sure you have noted one or two areas to stop during the reading and engage in conversation. These might be places where kids can practice skills such as these:
● Make a connection
● Attend to a character’s feeling or action
● Predict the plot
● Turn and talk with a partner
● Infer, with teacher support
After reading, engage in discussion around the characters’ feelings and actions. Be sure that conversation centers around the social-emotional aspect you are teaching. You might point out any of these:
● Character traits
● Supportive relationships
● Changes in feelings
● Lessons learned
● Decisions character had to make
● Challenges the character faced
● Alternative ways the character could have solved his/her problem
● Student connections
Provide an opportunity for students to engage in an activity that allows them to practice the social-emotional aspect on which your teaching is focused. This activity can be individual or done with a partner or small group, and it can utilize additional literacy practices like interactive writing, journaling, or language rehearsal. You might ask students to try these activities:
● Summarize actions the character took
● Develop other possibilities that would have brought the character to the same outcome
● Translate the lesson into their own lives. For example, “Next time you’re feeling worried, what can you do?” or “Write or draw two adults you can talk to the next time you’re feeling nervous.”
● Role-play a similar situation
● Rehearse language or actions students can take to help manage emotions, set goals, show empathy, solve problems, or make decisions
Reading aloud provides a vehicle for students to see themselves in texts. They relate to the characters in stories, recognize their emotions, and learn ways to manage and develop their feelings and actions. Talking about characters may be a wonderful scaffold for students who have difficulty discussing their own feelings or experiences. Reading aloud provides a springboard for additional conversations and activities and teaching related to social-emotional learning.
For additional ideas related to literacy, browse the rest of Hameray’s blog, where you will find many resources to support literacy in your classroom.
Beth has been teaching for seventeen years. She has taught kindergarten, third, and fourth grades in Wisconsin. For the last six years, she has been a literacy interventionist and Reading Recovery teacher and loves spending her days helping her students develop and share her love of reading.