Top 10 Read-Alouds July 21 2009

Books are like old friends. I have a bookcase in my office where I keep only the most sacred book choices, the authors I have come to love over the years, and the books I read over, and over, and over again.

It’s the same for me in my classroom. I have a bookshelf sacred to those novels that I have read over and over again to kids over the course of a school year. They're not allowed to touch these books; if they show interest in any of them, I simply scrounge up another copy. But the books on that shelf don't move unless I move them. Ever. Only because I love to share them by reading them out loud to my kids.

Benefits of Reading Aloud

I always timed my reading aloud segment of the day for after lunch. The kids would come into our classroom, jazzed up from kickball, foursquare and building their social hierarchy, but once I opened the read-aloud novel, the room quieted immediately. The story seemed to cast a spell, and there was plenty of complaining if we missed the read-aloud.

State Curriculum Standards

It’s impossible to teach everything we’re supposed to teach in a school year, but we try! One way to make this easier is to use some of that read aloud time to reinforce our curriculum standards. It even helps make those facts more accessible, more personal, as a character in a novel is experiencing them. Sometimes it also helps the kids approach the curriculum from different angles, making connections they might otherwise have not made.

Instilling a Love of Reading

Reading aloud to kids of any age builds a love for good stories, good writing, and consistently good authors. It’s a kind of brand loyalty we don’t often see in our twittering, latest headline, throw-away culture. We can’t pass up the opportunity to help kids discover all that novels have to offer!

While Harry Potter is probably the most obvious choice, I’ve compiled a list of my personal read-aloud favorites for the course of a school year.

Top 5 Read Alouds for the Younger Set

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George - Kind of like "Man vs. Wild" but without the drinking of your own urine.

Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg - Begs the question, if you could choose where to set up camp, where would it be?

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo - I was as entranced by Edward's journey as the kids were.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - Basically, anything by Roald Dahl will do the trick.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – This is great for primary classrooms as it introduces the novel format, and helps kids understand a longer narrative arc. I enjoy coming back to it in intermediate grades in order to teach elements of good writing, like the best opening line of all time.

Now that you’re done looking up the first line of Charlotte’s Web, moving on to the top Intermediate Read Alouds.

Top 5 Read Alouds for the Older Elementary Kids

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle -One of my all-time favorites. I spent my 5th grade recesses in the "L" section of the library, reading all of her books one after the other.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen - Again, "Man vs. Wild," but closer to the drinking your own urine situations.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - Best. Mystery. Ever. Although, for older kids definitely, and you'll need to keep a chart of clues.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - Heartbreakingly awesome. Kids gasp every time when I read what the main character is doing in Idaho.

OK, there’s one more, but only one! The Giver by Lois Lowry

What are your top picks? Do you return to them each year? Why?