Approaches to Teaching Reading

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Reading aloud from the best of children’s literature should be a daily part of every classroom programme at all levels. Listening to a story told or read aloud well is a captivating experience.

Reading aloud to children frees them from the labour of decoding and supports them in becoming active listeners, totally engaged and immersed in the text. As children create meaning from a text by making connections between what they already know and what they hear, they develop new knowledge and awareness. They enrich their vocabulary by hearing new words in context and familiar words used in new ways, and they develop new insights into the way language works (for example, how words can be ordered and how imagery can be used) and into the different text forms. A great deal of implicit learning occurs when children are read to.

Reading aloud is appropriate for all students, including those who already read accurately and fluently. This teaching approach can be used effectively with both large and small groups. Students who have had limited experiences with books, or who are receptive rather than active learners, can benefit when they are read to in small groups and the teacher can encourage them to engage with the text and respond to it actively.

We’d been studying tales and myths of Aotearoa and Pasifika countries. I chose Maui and the Sun for this group because I thought they would like a superhero who overcomes the forces of nature. The elements of the traditional tale are all here – the cunning plot, the brothers-in-arms, the struggle. It’s short but full of action, so I was able to read it twice in one session. The style of illustration sets the Maori context well, and when we looked at the detail after they had heard the story, the children were intrigued by the changing expressions on the face of the sun. The strong narrative has suspense and action, and it kept the children engaged. I dramatised the reading by heightening the different voices of the...
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