In the latest Notes from the Horn Book, Richard Peck is very opinionated about teachers reading aloud his books:
4. You talk a lot with young readers. What are they telling you?
Things they didn’t mean to. Over and over they’re telling me that the books I wrote for them to read are being read to them by their teachers. And hearing a story read doesn’t seem to expand their vocabularies. If a teacher is going to take limited classroom time in reading aloud (and even giving away the ending), the least she could do is hand out a list of vocabulary from the reading to be looked up and learned.
Years ago I heard Peck come down very hard on teachers and, ever since, I’ve had to separate that memory when reading his books. This year I feel A Season of Gifts is one of the strongest books of the year — the character development excellent, the various threads of story beautifully developed, and the language and setting is sublime. A really lovely work. And so I will again set aside this quote from the author and continue to appreciate his work. Maybe one day he will appreciate what I do too.
There are so many ways I read aloud to my students. Recently I wrote about my general reading program and reading aloud is an important part of it. My first day of school with students is this coming Monday and I’ve got a pile of books on my desk as I mull over which one I will begin with. There will be no vocabulary lessons or sheets with it. If the first book is Boyce’s Cosmic I may have to slip in a few bits of information, but only what is needed to enjoy the story. If I read aloud (but probably won’t because I think it is for older kids than those I teach) A Season of Gifts I would do the same thing — slip in explanations if necessary. However, kids can also use their own developing skills to figure out what words mean themselves using context. Turning a read aloud into a deadly vocabulary lesson happens, far too often, I fear. And such a lesson is unlike to endear many of those child readers to Peck’s books, I’m afraid.
For more on what I read aloud in my classroom and how, here are a bunch of those posts. Even better, go read this talented 6th grade teacher’s response to Peck.