University of Warsaw
“Why teachers should incorporate reading aloud to students into English lessons”
“Once upon a time …” – these words that most commonly signal the beginning of a fairy tale are without doubt familiar to the majority of people if not to all. It is because fairy tales and other stories are an inherent part of the childhood of most people. When asked “Do you remember being read to by your parents?”, the answer given most frequently would probably be “Yes”. However, what would the answer to the question “Do you remember being read to by your teachers?” be? It is clearly noticeable that reading aloud to children in the classroom does not receive as much emphasis as it should. Why, then, should teachers incorporate reading aloud to students into English lessons?
The topic of reading aloud to children as a technique used in the classroom has been discussed by various educators and researchers. One of them is Pimanmas Ninsuwan who mentions in her article that “reading aloud can be very important for EFL/ESL readers, especially at the early stage of learning” (Ninsuwan 2015:1836). She underlines three main factors that support this belief. First of all, Ninsuwan argues that reading aloud to children helps them discover units of meaning that should be read as a phrase and not word by word. What is more, it helps them see reading as a meaningful and continuous process. Apart from that, it also helps children recognise and learn the characteristic features of a language, such as intonation, pronunciation, and word and sentence stress. These beliefs are based on and confirmed by the research. In the article, Ninsuwan describes an experiment conducted on 20 participants of an English Intensive Course who were tested before and after the implementation of reading aloud into the classes they attended. The results of the experiment showed the development of pronunciation and increase in confidence in reading when it comes to students with initial low proficiency in English. Reading aloud also accounted for boosting the students’ capability of memorising new vocabulary items and increasing their level of understanding various texts (Ninsuwan 2015:1839).
Taking into consideration these factors, it can be clearly seen that reading aloud has a positive effect on students’ learning of a foreign language. However, it is not the only aspect influenced by the use of this technique. As stated by Rebecca Bellingham (2015), “reading aloud has an impact on children’s independent reading lives” (Bellingham 2015). Such a statement may be made on the basis of some characteristics of this technique. Bellingham underlines the possibility that reading aloud offers to children, namely being able to get inside the book. This term is to be understood as the possibility to take in the story and its meaning, think about it, learn from it and understand it, which becomes available to children as they do not need to spend much time on decoding different words and sounds and may instead focus on the message that a given book conveys. Moreover, it allows children to walk in the shoes of some characters and see their own reflection in them and their experiences, thus affecting them – their thinking and behaviour. Reading aloud to children provides them also with the access to stories and information that they would not probably be able to explore on their own or do it so deeply. Bellingham maintains that it gives children a chance to connect with others and feel the joy coming from this social experience (Bellingham 2015).
As future teachers, we without doubt want our students to learn something new, to gain knowledge and be able to use it in their personal lives. But we also want to make a change in their lives, to encourage them to learn by themselves and to show them the joy of learning. Taking into account the influence of reading aloud to children that was discussed in the previous paragraphs, it can be argued that reading aloud is the way to achieve all of these goals. As teachers, we should definitely try to incorporate reading aloud to students into our own teaching and see the benefits coming from it ourselves.