- Read alouds typically tackle ideas and concepts that may be difficult for students to understand on their own without in-depth discussion.
- Read alouds build classroom community in that they give students something in common, a shared experience, and a consistent context for many situations.
- Read alouds introduce students to titles, authors, genres, and subject matter they may not have sought out on their own.
- Read aloud time seems like a "break" to students, yet they are learning and are being exposed to a great deal during this relaxing time of the often hectic school day.
- Plus, and best of all, read alouds truly bring the joy of reading alive! Students are always begging for more when I close a book and say, "That's all we have time for today."
On a typical day, read aloud time lasts 10-30 minutes. It is only part of the literacy program that also includes writing and reading workshop. Sometimes, read aloud is part of the workshops, while other times it stands alone. Also, novel read alouds often offer great cross-curricular options, especially with fifth grade social studies.
Here are my fifth grade read aloud novels for the 2013-14 school year:
Al Capone Does My Shirts is a wonderful coming of age, historical fiction novel that takes place on Alcatraz Island in the days of Al Capone. The main character, Moose, struggles with fitting-in, caring for his sister who is different, and balancing wanting affection from his parents and wanting to be grown-up. On October 22nd, our entire fifth grade is heading to Alcatraz for a field trip. I'm looking forward to having literature come to life for my students!
Grayson is a heartfelt memoir from open water swimmer, Lynne Cox. Her previous book, Swimming to Antarctica, inspired me to get through my first Alcatraz swim. She is a talented writer who brings an encounter with a whale calf and her desire to keep the calf safe to life. While reading Grayson, I will also periodically read aloud sections from Swimming to Antarctica for contrast. I'm looking forward to the discussions that will come from comparing and contrasting Cox's works! in two weeks in San Francisco, I am seeing Lynne Cox speak at a local swimming club. I am thrilled!
Wonder captured my heart when I first read it last summer. It is the realistic fiction account of Auggie Pulman's year in fifth grade. Auggie is not like other kids in that he has a severe facial deformity that sets him apart. However, Palacio masterfully captures how Auggie is just like all the other kids through his thoughts, actions, and words. Palacio tells the story of Auggie's year in fifth grade from many different character points of view. Our discussions last school year often formed around the idea that different people will have different experiences and realities around the same exact situation. Compassion is a constant theme woven throughout the book. This a must read for all fifth graders!
I chose Who Was Jackie Robinson for a few reasons. First, it is a well-written biography of one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Second, it covers a dark time in American history that children need to try to understand. Read aloud is an ideal format to cover the harsh and often ignored realities of racism, prejudice, and the reality of what America used to be. Plus, this is an excellent book to use to introduce the genres of biography and autobiography.
Children and young adult readers tend to enjoy series. Especially popular right now are novels set in a dystopian society. Among the Hidden, a dystopian/semi-science fiction novel, is a quick read aloud (less than 200 pages) that keeps readers wanting more! In this first of the series, Luke is one of the Shadow Children, children who are the third or fourth in a family in a society where having more than two children is illegal. I won't give anything away, but I will say the ending of the book will have students running to start the second in the series!
Laurie Halse Anderson is a talented writer of historical fiction for children and young adults. Last year, a book club in my classroom raved about her novel Fever, 1793. After the book club gave Halse Anderson high marks, I investigated her works more. This is when I came across Chains. Chains is the historical fiction tale about Isabelle, a young, slave girl at the time of the American Revolution. Laurie Halse Anderson tackles the reality of slavery with a fine balance of honesty and sensitivity. She follows Isabelle through loss, anticipation, hope, pain, fear, and the undying need to survive. Parts of this novel will be difficult to discuss with students, and that's one of the reasons why I am selecting it. Students need to try to understand and question the realities that surround the history and creation of our country. Chains will greatly benefit kids in this often difficult process.
There are so many other fantastic novels that were also in the running. Alas, we only have 180 days in a school year. Happy reading!