Learn what works

Reading aloud is a planned oral reading of a book or text.  It can be used to engage the student listener while developing background knowledge, increasing comprehension skills, and fostering critical thinking. Reading aloud allows students to hear a fluent reader read a variety of texts.  All students need models of fluent and proficient reading.  Through reading aloud, the teachers’ or parents’ oral reading becomes the model that students strive to achieve.

Daily oral reading should be happening at every grade level, at least through middle school (Rasinski, 2003)

Benefits of Reading Aloud

  • Builds an interest in reading
  • Exposes students to texts they may not choose or be able to read on their own
  • Exposes students to multiple genres
  • Improves comprehension and vocabulary
  • Exposes students to more sophisticated vocabulary
  • Exposes students to different text structures Increases fluency by witnessing fluent reading
  • Allows students to gain knowledge of the world around them
  • Builds motivation to read more

Planning for Reading Aloud

You should choose a time for reading aloud that is relaxed, quiet, and conducive to listening. The atmosphere for reading aloud should be pleasant–relaxed, but with some anticipation, curiosity or excitement. Carefully select books or texts to read to students and the focus of the reading, based on students’ needs. Some questions you may ask yourself in selecting texts for the purpose of building fluency include:

  • Does the book have the features in which you want to focus?
  • Is the book worthy of a reader’s and listeners’ time?
  • Does the story sound good to the ear when read aloud?
  • Will it appeal to your audience?
  • Will children find the book relevant to their lives and culture?
  • Will the book spark conversation?
  • Will the book motivate deeper topical understanding?
  • Does the book inspire children to find or listen to another book on the same topic, by the same author, or written in the same genre?
  • Is the story memorable?
  • Will children want to hear the story again?

Practice reading the selected text beforehand to ensure proper phrasing, intonation, and rate.

Plan for student response/discussion after reading aloud. Rasinski (2003) notes, “No read-aloud experience is complete without giving students an opportunity to respond to what they have heard.”

What to do after Reading Aloud

Oral Response

A brief follow-up discussion is an easy and effective way to allow students to respond after reading aloud. Questions should be open ended and challenge students to think deeply and critically about what they have heard. The Iowa Core places an emphasis on text-dependent questions, so be sure to have students tell what they heard in the text that makes them “think so”. Some appropriate question to ask include the following:

  • How would you describe the main character? What did you hear in the text that makes you think so?
  • What do you think will happen next in this story? What has already happened in the text that makes you predict that?
  • What do other characters in the story think of the main character? What did you hear in the story that makes you think so?
  • Are any of the characters in the story alike/different? How are they alike/different?
  • How well did they solve their problem? What did you hear in the story that makes you think so?
  • If the author wrote another book about these characters, what would you expect to happen?
  • What did you like most about this story? Why?
  • What did you like least? Why?

Visual Response
Students can also respond by drawing a favorite scene from the story. They can then share and explain their drawings and use them as the basis for further discussion of the text.


In small groups, students draw a favorite scene from the story that was read aloud to them. Each student shares his or her drawing with the others in the group, who “stretch” to determine what is happening in the picture. This activity helps students to make inferences about the text and the drawing.

Induced Imagery

Students talk about the images they made in their minds while listening to a story.

Written Response

You might ask students to write about what has been read to them. They can either write freely in their journals or they may respond to writing prompts given by the teacher.

Sample Prompts

  • Write about what you think will happen next in the story.
  • Describe the character as you see him or her in your mind.
  • Write a letter to the main character giving him or her advice on how to handle the problem in the story.
  • What would have been a good title for this chapter in the story?

Physical Response

Students may use movement and actions to express their response to the story; these may include pantomime, dance, and other movement.


Iowa Department of Education. (2007). Every Child Reads: Excellence in Teaching and Learning. http://www.iowadereading.info

Optiz, M. F., & Rasinski, T.V. (2008). Good-by Round Robin: 25 Effective Oral Reading Strategies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Rasinski, T. V. (2003). The Fluent Reader. New York, NY: Scholastic Professional Books.

See how it works

Sample Planning Guide (1st grade)
Sample Planning Guide (6th grade)

Do what works

Planning Template (Reading Aloud)


Book Lists

Additional Websites