As every teacher knows, the benefits of read-alouds are numerous. Teachers conduct read-alouds to motivate their students to read and to build their topical knowledge about a specific subject (Hoffman, Roser, & Battle, 1993). Read-aloud texts, which are typically more difficult for children than their independent reading texts, are often followed by a brief discussion of the events and themes. The "ahhs" that follow when the session is over and the promise of more tomorrow demonstrate the joy associated with a good read-aloud.
When Artley (1975) asked teachers what they remembered most from their elementary school experiences, they consistently reported that teacher read-alouds were among their favorite memories. Ivey and Broaddus (2001) also found that middle school students reported similar favorites: They reported that independent reading time and teacher read-alouds made them want to read more.
Research and current practice continue to support the use of teacher read-alouds as a significant component of instruction across grade levels (Dreher, 2003; Martin, 1993; Richardson, 2000; Routman, 1991; Sipe, 2000; Trelease, 1989). The Commission on Reading (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985) stated, "The single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children" (p. 23). Realizing this, the read-aloud as a component of the reading program has been widely implemented, and according to the San Diego, California, City Schools literacy framework, teachers are encouraged to read aloud to their students every day.
While most educators agree that teachers should read aloud to their students on a regular basis, the specifics of how to conduct the read-aloud are less clear. The vast majority of the studies available on teacher read-alouds (e.g., Bintz, 1993; Elley, 1992; Ouellette, Dagostino, & Carifio, 1999) report only the outcomes of read-alouds. They rarely include a discussion of the processes that teachers use to implement the read-aloud. For example, Richardson (2000) said, "Read-alouds model expressive, enthusiastic reading, transmit the pleasure of reading, and invite listeners to be readers" (p. 3), and Daisey (1993) reported that reading aloud is one of the three ways that teachers can promote literacy for students of any age.
Why should teachers conduct read-alouds?
Many researchers have demonstrated that read-alouds are an effective way to introduce students to the joy of reading and the art of listening (Morrow, 2003) while developing their vocabularies, experiential backgrounds, and concepts of print and story. Through a read-aloud, teachers can model reading strategies and demonstrate the ways in which the language of the book is different from spoken language (Hedrick & Pearish, 2003). Children's understanding of the patterns and structures of written language can be developed through read-alouds (Lapp & Flood, 2003; Strickland & Taylor, 1989). As children participate in read-alouds, they learn new words and ideas as they are exposed to a variety of genres in their written forms (Altwerger, Diehl-Faxon, & Dockstader-Anderson, 1985; Teale & Sulzby, 1987).
Perhaps the most researched areas of interactive read-alouds can be found in the literature on oral language development and motivation. As early as 1977, Flood demonstrated the positive motivating effects of read-alouds shared between parents and children. This was supported by Sulzby and Teale (2003), who reported on the impact of read-alouds on the motivation to read created among young children. Further confirmation for read-alouds as a motivating factor in reading was found by Gambrell, Palmer, and Codling (1993) in their work with third and fourth graders. Specifically, they found that choice was a motivating factor for reading and that the choices children made were often related to the teacher read-aloud.
In their review of the literature on oral language development, Pinnell and Jaggar (2003) demonstrated the importance of read-alouds in the growth of oral language for both first- and second-language speakers. This set of findings was also confirmed by British educators MacLure (1988) and Barnes (1992) in their work on oracy as communication in the United Kingdom. They found that read-alouds led to an improvement in language expression throughout all curriculum subjects. In an additional set of studies (Mandler, 1984; Nelson, 1986), researchers suggested that young children who experienced a number of read-alouds understood the components, structure, and function of narrative discourse. Nelson (1981) even argued that the experience of read-alouds enabled children to express themselves as individuals, connect with others, and make sense of the world.
What are the components of an effective read-aloud?
While the research is quite clear on the importance of instructing through read-alouds, studies are limited on addressing the question of how to conduct an effective read-aloud. In one study, Hoffman et al. (1993) presented strategies for enabling teachers to show children how to build upon their topical knowledge on a specific subject. In Jim Trelease's handbooks on read-alouds (e.g., 1989), he eloquently explained the importance of read-alouds but stopped short of providing an instructional model. Thus, the exact components of a read-aloud have been difficult to discern.
In our daily interactions with classroom teachers who conduct read-alouds, we wondered if simply reading the story aloud was sufficient or if there were specific guidelines that should be followed in order to maximize this instructional time. Realizing that a paucity of information existed on how to conduct a read-aloud, we decided to study the read-aloud practices of teachers who enjoyed the reputation of being exceptional models of read-aloud instruction and whose students consistently performed at or above the school norms on reading achievement. We decided that once we had identified the procedures of these "experts" as they conducted a read-aloud, we would next observe additional teachers to see if the procedures were used widely.
Phase I. Letters were sent to 65 district and …