Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Potluck – #Reading Aloud & Reading – There’s a Big Difference – Jennie Fitzkee

Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1100 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine.

The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics. This series is along the same lines… but is a ‘Lucky Dip’

In this series I will be sharing posts from the first six months of 2021 and on occasion I might dip into months either side to share gems. Submissions are now closed but there will be another series in January 2022.

This is the second post from Jennie Fitzkee and in this post Jennie shares her thoughts on the differences between reading and reading aloud…

Reading Aloud & Reading – There’s a Big Difference.

My greatest passion is reading aloud to children. I thought it was time to talk about the difference between reading and reading aloud, as I often post about good children’s books. While reading is the goal, the dream- reading aloud is the pathway to that dream. Jim Trelease, author of the million-copy bestseller “The Read-Aloud Handbook” says it best:

“People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does. It expands their interest in books, vocabulary and comprehension, grammar, and attention span. Simply put, it’s a free “oral vaccine” for literacy.
~Jim Trelease~

I love a good story, especially one that involves reading aloud and the stunning difference it makes with children. Here is a favorite story of mine from his best selling book, which is proof of what happens with reading aloud:

“During his ten years as principal of Boston’s Solomon Lewenberg Middle School, Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. and his faculty proved it. The pride of Boston’s junior high schools during the 1950s and early 1960s, Lewenberg subsequently suffered the ravages of urban decay, and by 1984, with the lowest academic record and Boston teachers calling it the “looney bin” instead of Lewenberg, the school was earmarked for closing. But first, Boston officials would give it one last chance.

The reins were handed over to O’Neill, an upbeat, first-year principal and former high school English teacher whose experience there had taught him to “sell” the pleasures and importance of reading.

The first thing he did was abolish the school’s intercom system. (“As a teacher I’d always sworn someday I’d rip the thing off the wall. Now I could do it legally.”) He then set about establishing structure, routine, and discipline. “That’s the easy part. What happens after is the important part–reading. It’s the key element in the curriculum. IBM can teach our graduates to work the machine, but we have to teach them how to read the manual.” In O’Neill’s first year, sustained silent reading (see chapter 5) was instituted for nearly four hundred pupils and faculty for the last ten minutes of the day, during which everyone in the school read for pleasure. Each teacher (and administrator) was assigned a room–much to the consternation of some who felt those last ten minutes could be better used to clean up the shop or gym. “Prove to me on paper,” O’Neill challenged them, “that you are busier than I am, and I’ll give you back the ten minutes to clean.” He had no takers.

Within a year, critics became supporters and the school was relishing the quiet time that ended the day. The books that had been started during SSR were often still being read by students filing out to buses–in stark contrast to former dismissal scenes that bordered on chaos.

The next challenge was to ensure that each sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade student not only saw an adult reading each day but also heard one. Faculty members were assigned a classroom and the school day began with ten minutes of reading aloud, to complement the silent ending at the end of the day. Soon reading aloud began to inspire awareness, and new titles sprouted during SSR. In effect, the faculty was doing what the great art schools have always done: providing life models from which to draw.

In the first year, Lewenberg’s scores were up; in the second year, not only did the scores climb but so, too, did student enrollment in response to the school’s new reputation.

Three years later, in 1988, Lewenberg’s 570 students had the highest reading scores in the city of Boston, there was a fifteen page waiting list of children who wanted to attend, and O’Neill was portrayed in Time as a viable alternative to physical force in its cover story on Joe Clark, the bullhorn- and bat-toting principal from Paterson, New Jersey.

Today, Tom O’Neill is retired, but the ripple effect of his work has reached shores that not even his great optimism would have anticipated. In the early 1990s, a junior high school civics teacher in Japan, Hiroshi Hayashi, read the Japanese edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook. Intrigued by the concept of SSR and Tom O’Neill’s example, he immediately decided to apply it to his own school. (Contrary to what most Americans believe, not all Japanese public school students are single-minded overachievers, and many are rebellious or reluctant readers–if they are readers at all.) Although SSR was a foreign concept to Japanese secondary education, Hayashi saw quick results in his junior high school with just ten minutes at the start of the morning. Unwilling to keep his enthusiasm to himself, he spent the next two years sending forty thousand handwritten postcards to administrators in Japanese public schools, urging them to visit his school and adopt the concept. His personal crusade has won accolades from even faculty skeptics: By 2006, more than 3,500 Japanese schools were using SSR to begin their day.”

Used by permission of the author, Jim Trelease, 2013, The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin)

These are the stories that make me continue to read aloud to children. It is THE single most important thing I do in my classroom. Children love it, read on their own throughout the day, and excel in school. Not only am I growing readers, I’m opening the door to the world for them. And, they jump in with both feet.

I am featured in this book. 

©Jennie Fitzkee 2021

My thanks to Jennie for allowing me to share posts from her archives.. I hope you will head over to enjoy your own browse of her terrific articles.

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie – Blog: Jennie Fitzkee – Facebook: Jennie Fitzkee – Twitter: @jlfatgcs



52 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Potluck – #Reading Aloud & Reading – There’s a Big Difference – Jennie Fitzkee

    • I am delighted to share too Jennie.. It is close to my heart as well. Because my sisters read to me when I was little, and my first teacher encouraged me, I loved reading. When I was six the I read during the service at our cities cathedral at Christmas. I stood on a box to to reach the lectern and read from a very large bible. I went on to read the lesson many times when we were not abroad with my father’s job until I was 16. It gave me a confidence that played an important part in my career going forward. ♥

      Liked by 2 people

      • What a wonderful story, Sally! See, you know firsthand what a difference reading makes. I’m glad you remarked about boosting confidence, too. Hugs, Sally!


  1. Reblogged this on A Teacher's Reflections and commented:
    Sally Cronin has shared one of my favorite blog posts – reading aloud. For me, the stories that the ‘father’ of reading aloud (Jim Trelease) told were absolutely gripping. The Boston school principal is just the story to make everyone pick up a book and read to a child. It makes a difference.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember this amazing post. There is no substitute for reading aloud to children. I read with my son through sixth grade, and it does my heart good when he (now 28) comes for a visit (He lives over 1,000 miles away), and I see him reading for pleasure. A master’s degree in education—I’d say it was a good investment.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you, Sally, for so eloquently share this great post by Jenny.
    I am so glad I saw it this morning. I am a lucky one, had two teachers as a child that
    both were so engaged. Reading aloud was a daily event as was singing
    songs together.
    Teacher can make a big impact in our lives.


    Liked by 3 people

  4. This is such a wonderful post! I believe that if you can instil a love of reading in children, you’ve opened up a world of opportunity to them. I was put in charge of literacy at my last school (a large comprehensive) the year before some failed surgery forced me to leave. I set up a system of reading mentors where older students listened to a buddy read. Some of the older students weren’t fluent readers themselves and they gained at least as much as the younger ones did. The most timid younger ones grew in all-round confidence through their association with someone more senior than them. I also started a system where several times a week, in the morning, all students had a ten minute quiet reading session during which the class teacher also read for pleasure. My own personal favourite lessons were the literature ones where I’d read aloud to the class. Even the tough 15/16 year-old pupils looked forward to these and some would ask if they could read a bit, too. There should be more Jennies in this world! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up.. 14th – 20th November 2021 – Boosters, Thanksgiving, Hits 1982, Green Kitchen, Ghosts, Book Reviews, Bloggers, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.