Each year the Wellington College family marks the birth date, September 13th, of Roald Dahl – the famous British novelist and poet, and one of the greatest storytellers of children’s literature. In memory of the popular writer, Students of Tianjin International School in the Junior School experience a range of activities over the course of a week discovering more of the secrets of Dahl’s writing: his inventive, playful use of language; a sense of humour, incredible imagination – which is how he won the hearts of so many readers. As our pupils’ progress through the Junior School they develop a deeper appreciation of Dahl’s work as different aspects come to light, as they develop more of an awareness and appreciation of authors and the deeper features of language.
Research has demonstrated that reading aloud creates a sense of community through building a shared reading experience.
Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Collins, F., Powell, S. and Safford, K. 2014
Our pupils enjoy Mystery Readers presenting their favourite Dahl books or chapters which creates excitement and suspense. Listening to stories helps to give all children access to sophisticated themes and literary language without placing literacy demands on them.
This also demonstrates one of our Wellington College identities: inclusive. By reading stories that are of interest to them, but beyond their reading level, we can stretch young readers’ understanding and motivate them to improve their skills. Our goal is to motivate pupils to want to read so they will practise reading independently and, thus, become fluent readers. This happens when children enjoy reading.
Reading with expression is also modelled to pupils’ through reading aloud and pupils’ discuss and share favourite characters (seen in the Dahl costume parade), make connections, predict what might be happening next, practice retelling a particular event or scene in the story (a video created of an imaginary event of Roald Dahl and Cao Wenxuan meeting on a train), discover new vocabulary and ask questions through this forum. Shared reading also provides the perfect opportunity for deliberately teaching reading strategies and reading processes to our pupils, so they can become fluent readers of English, develop a love of books,and gain access to the whole curriculum independently.
At Tianjin International School, we also want our pupils to have a love of reading, so by listening to stories they not only develop an awareness of narratives and language they become engaged and excited and perhaps motivated to find out more by themselves.
Reading aloud is widely viewed as a key strand of reading for pleasure pedagogy, one which demonstrates the power and potential of literature and thus influences children’s perceptions of the pleasure to be found in reading. At Wellington, our teachers read to our pupils and listen to our pupils read daily, they demonstrate that reading is important, and that reading is an enjoyable activity, and something worth doing. Reading aloud not only allows us to challenge pupils’ it opens up possibilities to the wonder that great books provide. Our pupils’ also have the opportunity to listen to audio stories themselves through our virtual classrooms and access to websites such as MyOn and Oxford Owl.
The growing body of evidence over the past 25 years (Cameron, S. 2016) has found that ‘proficient readers are active readers’ and that when reading they actively engage with the text. We teach our pupils what to do before reading, during reading and after reading to maximize reading comprehension. We find that sometimes pupils are accurate and fluent decoders, however, this does not always translate into having a good understanding of the text. Pupils also learn a lot from reading together, so we have created reading buddy systems across our three schools. The advantages of a buddy reading program for younger students include them feeling safe and happy, as well as demonstrating improved engagement in reading. For older buddies, it can help them develop improved self-esteem, confidence in reading and increased cognitive awareness.
Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. Even after children learn to read by themselves, it’s still important for you to read aloud together. Why not share your favourite childhood book with your daughter or son today or ask them more about their favourite Dahl characters or stories?