Two important components of reading comprehension are background knowledge of a wide range of topics and a rich vocabulary. Reading aloud, especially interactive reading aloud, to children is an effective strategy for developing this knowledge and is even more critical for pre-readers and for children who find reading difficult. Wright (2019) suggests that interactive reading aloud should be purposeful and planned, both the teacher and the students should be actively involved in thinking and talking about the text, and it should occur across the day in a broad range of subjects, using a variety of genres.
Wright suggests the following strategies:
- Integrate read-alouds into a variety of subject areas. They can be particularly effective for helping students understand content that they cannot directly experience (e.g., space).
- Read a set of texts (of varying genres and levels of difficulty) that are conceptually or thematically related to build knowledge in a given area and to deepen understanding of more challenging texts.
- Select texts with themes and characters from a broad range of cultures and backgrounds.
- Provide child-friendly explanations of new vocabulary, include appropriate prompts (e.g., actions, pictures, props), provide time for discussing and thinking about the word (e.g., find synonyms, antonyms, homophones) and create opportunities for students to use the word in meaningful ways.
- Use read-aloud texts to teach students about the different purposes of texts (e.g., inform, persuade, entertain, instruct) and how authors achieve these purposes (e.g., language, sentence structures, headings and subheadings, graphical elements).
- Use read-aloud texts to support children’s writing by analysing the text and discussing features that make the writing effective for the intended purpose (e.g., word choice, use of dialogue). Students then practise using the same features in their own writing.
- Model skills that assist in the reading process (e.g., decoding unfamiliar words, visualising, monitoring understanding, questioning the validity).
- Use the texts as a resource for teaching students higher-order comprehension skills (e.g., comparing and contrasting to different parts of the same text, to other texts and to their own knowledge and beliefs/values).
- Promote discussion by asking open-ended questions (e.g., how and why). Provide sufficient scaffolding to prompt in depth discussion (e.g., provide a sentence stem such as: I agree with __ because ___).
Wright, T. (2019). Reading to learn from the start: The power of reading aloud. American Educator, Winter 2018-2019: https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2018-2019/wright