Jim Trelease - The Read-Aloud Handbook

The Read-Aloud Handbook

During his time working for the Springfield Daily News, now the Springfield Republican, Trelease began weekly volunteer visits to community classrooms to talk to children about journalism and art as possible careers. Trelease noticed that many of the students in these classrooms did not read much for pleasure, but the students who did most often came from classrooms where teachers read aloud daily and incorporated Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) into the daily class routine. Trelease began to think that there may be a connection between being read to and a child's desire to read. It turned out that there was in fact a correlation, but the information and research was published in education journals or written in academic language that exceeded the understanding of the average parent or teacher, so Trelease was inspired to write and self-publish the first edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979.

In The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, Sixth Edition, 2006), Trelease discusses the fundamentals of reading aloud to children: why to do it,when to begin, the stages of reading aloud, how to do it, and even how not to do it. He also explains how sustained silent reading works hand in hand with reading aloud. In addition to a treasury of read-aloud favorites in this volume, Trelease has edited and published two anthologies of popular read-alouds, Hey! Listen to this: Stories to Read Aloud (Penguin, 1992) and Read All About It! Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, & Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens (Penguin, 1993).

Trelease says: “We read to children for all the same reasons we talk with children: to reassure, to entertain, to bond, to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity, to inspire. But in reading aloud, we also:

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure;
  • Create background information;
  • Build vocabulary;
  • Provide a reading role model.

One factor hidden in the decline of students’ recreational reading is that it coincides with a decline in the amount of time adults read to them. By middle school, almost no one is reading aloud to students. If each read-aloud is a commercial for the pleasures of reading, then a decline in advertising would naturally be reflected in a decline in students recreational reading” (p. 4).

Trelease also attributes the decline of recreational reading amongst children to an overall decline in newspaper readership. Children who come from homes containing more print, such as newspapers and books, have the highest reading scores. Fewer American homes have a daily newspaper, so fewer children see a parent reading, leaving them less to model on.

Trelease goes on to discuss the two “reading facts of life” that he asserts are largely ignored by education:

  1. “Human beings are pleasure-centered.”
  2. “Reading is an accrued skill.” (p. 4)

Reading aloud to a child combines both of these in one simple activity.

These and many other excerpts from Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook can be found online at http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/rah-intro.html.

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