Reading aloud in the classroom is important because it allows everyone to get involved in the story. It becomes a group activity and can be interactive. It also allows for the reader to make sense of the story or lead in a discussion as the story is being told. Students have the opportunity to take notes and ask questions. Or it can be the perfect conversation starter for discussing a topic that is relevant to the book, like making friends or going to a new school.
I compiled a list of 10 books I would like to incorporate as read-alouds in the classroom. I chose each book as an accompaniment to a specific lesson plan. When I originally chose books to read this semester, I did not take into consideration whether they would be good to read aloud and, as a result, my list contains books for different grade levels and various classroom applications. Each of these books contain information that presents itself in a very unique and interesting way that a textbook does not.
A Gathering of Days by Joan W Blos. A journal of a girl in New England 1830-1832 tells the story of a girl’s courage in aiding a possible runaway slave and the consequences involved. I would read this aloud to a 6th grade social studies class to enhance a discussion on the social and political implications of slavery during that time even in the free states.
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. This is a true story of a former slave who became a very respected U.S. Marshall in the Indian Territories until Oklahoma became a state in 1907. I would read this book as part of a 5th or 6th grade social studies discussion on what life was like for former slaves after the Civil War.
Working Cotton by Sherley Anne Williams. This is a story of a migrant African-American family of cotton pickers in California narrated by a young child that could realistically have taken place anywhere from fifty years ago all the way to more recently. I would read this book as part of a 2nd grade social studies discussion.
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel. The story takes place in Tanzania, Africa in the 1960s and centers around a boy’s desire to save his hard-earned money to buy a bicycle. I appreciate this story for its depiction of culture in a village in Africa. What I found most intriguing is that most villagers even today can only afford one bicycle for the entire family and it is used primarily for work, not recreation. I would read this book as part of a discussion on cultural diversity possibly during Black History Month.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe. In this story inspired by South African folklore, two sisters travel to the city where the king will choose a wife. I would read this to a 2nd grade class to spark a discussion on the elements of a folk tale (villain, hero, magic, moral) and the African culture as depicted in the illustrations.
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy. This is a very detailed account of an actual Yellow Fever Epidemic that occurred in 1793. It is told in such a great story telling style that it reads like a mystery novel. I was particularly impressed by the detail in the social attitudes toward African Americans (slave or free), the description of common medical practices in the 18th century, and of the detail in describing living conditions of the time. I think reading the book to a class of 6th graders over the course of several weeks would drastically increase their interest level on the history of our nation.
Alligators and Music by Donald Elliott. This book describes the instruments in a symphony orchestra with detail and humor. I would read this to a group of 3rd – 6th graders who are interested in starting band or as a precursor to a field trip to the orchestra.