Professional Development Book #1: In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice by Steven L. Layne

Steven starts his book about asking about the fuss. That was my question too. What is all the fuss about when it comes to read alouds? I loved read alouds in high school, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Monster by Walter Dean Myers were the two I remember vividly from freshman year of high school. I had such a great experience with read alouds so it was to my dismay that I read the first chapter of Steven’s book and he had stories of complaints by parents about his read alouds. These parents claimed that read aloud wasn’t instruction and to someone that loved read alouds in high school that makes me sad. Steven has study after study showing that read aloud is best practice but the stories of these parents are true. Layne explains that we as teachers need to be leaders and experts in their fields. They need to be able to defend read alouds and show the complaining parents and the administration that doesn’t understand that read aloud time is instruction and it keeps kids coming back.

In chapter two Steven talks about setting up a successful reading time. He starts with the seating plan, which is simple as allowing kids to sit where they want. Don’t force them to sit in their desks if they would prefer to sit on the floor but what if your classroom doesn’t support this? Layne suggests making it your own because it all depends on your classroom and the purpose of your read aloud. If your read aloud is just a bell ringer for five minutes then perhaps your students will stay in their seats but it is all about your classroom and what works for you and your students.

Steven also has a do not disturb sign on his door because that is how important read aloud time is. He says interruptions are the worst because read aloud is instruction. Also Steven used to be a teacher so he is hilarious because he knows what it is like to be in the trenches. He brings a lot of humor to his book which is great because in all the craziness of life sometimes you just need to laugh.

He goes on to talk about launching the read aloud, during the read aloud, how to conclude the read aloud and canceling a read aloud. Steven encourages picking a genre because it encourages higher level thinking and he strongly suggests reading the book through and picking strategic stopping points while reading to encourage your students to be thinking. Don’t ever cancel your read aloud and don’t let someone else conclude it for you.

Chapter 3 talks about selecting the appropriate read aloud which includes listening to your students, consider the genre, and read some nonfiction. At the end of every chapter Steven includes letters teachers wrote to him about questions they had about read aloud and one of the teachers mentioned that she couldn’t get her class of sixth grade boys interested in any of her read alouds. She lists several good books but they are all girl protagonists. That isn’t going to interest a group of young boys. That is what is so important about knowing your students and listening to them when choosing a read aloud. The read aloud is instruction but it is personalized instruction which is why it is so important that you know your students.

Chapter 4 talks about the read aloud itself and how to read aloud. Steven gives some really good tips on how to read aloud because let me tell you not everyone has a great read aloud voice.

The last chapter is also ver applicable because it is full of recommendations by teachers, librarians, and presidents of colleges on what books they found successful for read alouds. I loved reading through these selections because some books I read and was like YES! and others I was like I never heard of these but now I need to check them out!

I really enjoyed this book and honestly it felt like reading Book Love by Penny Kittle all over again. It didn’t read like a text book or even a professional development book. It felt like I was growing and I loved it.

I would totally recommend this book especially if you are considering launching a read aloud in your classroom.


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