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“Let there be half an hour of storytime at the end of the school in primary schools up and down the country. Make this the half hour they all long for, that they don’t want to be over. Let the children go home dreaming of the story; reliving it; wondering.”

Michael Morpurgo, author.

The Power of Storytelling

I asked around and 100% of my family, friends and colleagues were able to recall books they had enjoyed as young children – the overwhelming majority of those books had been read to them aloud.

My own fond memories of my father reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, on camping holidays by torchlight, with voices for each character, stayed with me into adulthood and made me impatient to read the same stories to my young sons.

Reading aloud is the foundation for literacy development. It is the single most important activity for reading success. (Bredekamp, Copple, & Neuman, 2000)

Reading aloud allows children to immerse themselves in the characters, the setting, and the story – little do they know that when they make those connections they are learning to think and act like good readers.

The Big 5…

  • Broadens horizons

  • Creates community

  • Tackles challenging topics

  • Provides a special environment

  • Is all-inclusive

Once upon a time…

Children can listen on a higher language level than they can read. Reading aloud makes complex ideas easier to understand and exposes children to vocabulary and language patterns that are not necessarily a part of everyday speech.

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE)[1] shared research from a 2021 survey of primary school teachers. Most teachers (82%) are finding ways to read aloud to their classes at least weekly. The majority on average, are reading daily (58%). 

The pattern was similar across the year groups although teachers were more likely to read more frequently with the youngest children. 

[1] https://clpe.org.uk/system/files/CLPE%20Reading%20for%20Pleasure%202021_0.pdf

Reading aloud by age group:

Daily  Weekly  Occasionally   

Not at all 

 

All  58%  23%  13%  5% 
Early Years  68%  25%  8%  0% 
Y1/2  54%  30%  13%  3% 
Y3/4  56%  22%  17%  6% 
Y5/6  61%  19%  15%  5% 

“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.”

Carl Sagan.

Broaden horizons by igniting curiosity

All children need to be exposed to a wide range of stories and books from a young age. “They need to see themselves as well as other people, cultures, communities in the books we read to them.”[1] (Barton & Booth, 1990).

“Selecting a wide range of culturally diverse books will help all children find and make connections to their own life experiences, other books they have read, and universal concepts.”[2] (Dyson & Genishi, 1994).

[1] Booth, David, and Bob Barton. Stories in the classroom: Storytelling, reading aloud and roleplaying with children. Markham, Ont.: Pembroke Publishers, 1990.

[2] Dyson, Anne Haas, and Celia Genishi. The Need for Story: Cultural Diversity in Classroom and Community. National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 W. Kenyon Rd., Urbana, IL 61801-1096., 1994.

shutterstock_1448056133

Creates community through shared experiences

Reading aloud to children has benefits for adults too. The quality time spent together strengthens teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil relationships and promotes bonding, providing opportunities for children to develop their social, communication and interpersonal skills.

Being a part of the same shared experience creates stronger emotional connections and helps children to gain a lifelong love of reading.

Tackles challenging topics

Reading a story aloud is a gentle way of exploring with children particular emotions and can help them to recognise and understand their feelings and also how others feel. By reading aloud together and then encouraging discussion, stories can help children feel more comfortable discussing their emotions in front of others.

“They need to see how characters in books handle the same fears, interests, and concerns that they experience.”[1] (Barton & Booth, 1990)

[1] Booth, David, and Bob Barton. Stories in the classroom: Storytelling, reading aloud and roleplaying with children. Markham, Ont.: Pembroke Publishers, 1990.

Provides a special environment

A study in 2019 by the National Literacy Trust and Nottingham Trent University[1] found that children using their school library were more likely to read for pleasure and had better reading and writing attitudes.

What sort of special environment should we create for our children, to encourage them to read and to keep them reading?  Creating dedicated, inviting, comfortable and welcoming physical environments is important for connecting positive experiences with reading and literacy.

[1]https://cdn.literacytrust.org.uk/media/documents/Libraries_project_review_2019_-_final.pdf

All-inclusive – supporting literacy skills, creating a reading culture

Gathering groups of children together to listen to a story exposes less able readers to the same rich and engaging books that fluent readers can read on their own, and encourages them to explore other titles and become better readers.

A reading culture can be strengthened by children hearing and seeing a trusted adult enjoying and sharing the contents of a wonderful book. Enthusiasm is infectious and children should be encouraged to share the love of any materials that interest them.

 

And they lived happily ever after…

Reading aloud to children allows them to try on the language and experience of others. It helps them make connections with their lives and informs their view of themselves and others. Thinking aloud helps children learn how to use comprehension strategies that are important when reading independently.

Creating stunning environments to support the delivery of storytelling in primary schools is part of WF’s mission to support literacy in education.

Explore our range of dedicated reading

and storytelling spaces

Talk to us about

your next amazing space

Choosing good books…

Some suggestions for reading aloud in year group phases (CLPE Reading for Pleasure research, 2021).

EYFS 

Burglar Bill – Janet and Allan Ahlberg

If I Had a Dinosaur – Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

Wonky Donkey – Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

Handa’s Surprise – Eileen Browne

Man on the Moon – Simon Bartram

Y1/2 

George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

Beegu – Alexis Deacon

Traction Man – Mini Grey

James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl

The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon – Richard Adams

Y3/4

Pugs of the Frozen North – Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre 

The Boy Who Grew Dragons – Andy Shepherd, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie 

The Explorer – Katherine Rundell 

James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl 

How to Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell 

Y5/6

Holes – Louis Sachar 

Cosmic – Frank Cottrell-Boyce 

Letters from the Lighthouse – Emma Carroll 

Kensuke’s Kingdom – Michael Morpurgo 

Wonder – R. J. Palacio 

References 

[1] https://clpe.org.uk/system/files/CLPE%20Reading%20for%20Pleasure%202021_0.pdf

[1] https://clpe.org.uk/research

[2] Booth, David, and Bob Barton. Stories in the classroom: Storytelling, reading aloud and roleplaying with children. Markham, Ont.: Pembroke Publishers, 1990.

[3] Dyson, Anne Haas, and Celia Genishi. The Need for Story: Cultural Diversity in Classroom and Community. National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 W. Kenyon Rd., Urbana, IL 61801-1096., 1994.

[4] https://cdn.literacytrust.org.uk/media/documents/Libraries_project_review_2019_-_final.pdf

[5] https://www.headteacher-update.com/best-practice-article/how-we-created-an-inspiring-school-library/222023

[6] https://literacytrust.org.uk/resources/primary-literacy-guide-202021/

[7] https://ifs.org.uk/publications/7687

[8] https://ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN169.pdf

[9] Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension (Judith Gold, Akimi Gibson, 2016)

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