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The Power of the World Read Aloud

This post was written by NCTE member Pam Allyn, a member of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

 

We stand at the cusp of so many changes in our world. And simultaneously, in homes across our nation and the world, our children are on their own individual journeys, coming to their classrooms full to the brim in their hearts and minds with stories of their families, their lives, their daily observations; their impressions, wonderings, and memories; and the intense, sometimes joyful, sometimes painful experiences of childhood.

Why is the Read Aloud an ever more powerful force for community and change at this particular moment in time? Why this year does World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) (Feb. 1) feel more seminal and momentous than ever before? It may be because the Read Aloud is an event that brings order and an abiding sense of hope to a turbulent world.

Children need a sense of their own agency for powerful change. They need to know that the smallest of stories, others’ stories and their own too, can have a big impact. They need to know the enveloping warmth of a shared story can diminish conflict and lift a lonely heart. These are all ways the Read Aloud makes disruptive change. And a child, a student of any age and ability level in reading, can be part of the Read Aloud. It is the most inclusive practice in the history of education.

Today, let us make a collective commitment to raise our voices together on Friday, February 1st. To celebrate means we are hopeful. To celebrate means we have trust in the voices and stories of children and childhood, and young adulthood. To celebrate means we join together across all divides to say yes, yes, we are for the stories that represent young people.

Here’s why World Read Aloud Day matters:

Power: Reading, writing and storytelling continue to be the defining way to claim power and one’s own voice.
Community: The Read Aloud lifts a community and shapes it: the stories read, the poems discussed, the articles examined, together create an environment of reflection and trust.
Hope: Reading together assures our children that stories honor past, present and future. They are in the presence of other people’s dreams and can create some of their own too.

 

Here’s how we can celebrate together:

  • Become “WRADvocates” by reading aloud somewhere, anywhere on this day, in your home, office or school: a simple act of reader, listener and text can transform relationships and nourish a community.
  • Use the day as a way to engage in public service around the power of reading. Read to others. Send video messages to children or elders who would love the saving beauty of voices raised in literary unity.
  • Use social media to make new connections, by setting up a video chat with an author or another school here in this country or around the world, or simply by posting a message and a favorite reading photo for your friends and followers. Here is a sample you can use: Get LOUD on 2/1 and use your powerful voice to make a change on #WorldReadAloudDay! What stories will you share on this important day? Or, on World Read Aloud Day: Today is #WorldReadAloudDay! So excited to feel the profound power of reading together! Join us @scholastic @litworld and let’s change the world together one story at a time!




And here’s how we can keep the powerful magic of the read aloud going and growing:

  • Share your photos and memories from the day with one another and with LitWorld.org, the organization behind WRAD.
  • Commit to continuing to support all children as readers EVERY day!
  • Keep growing your own reading community, whether it is educators loving children’s books together, fellow followers of an ever-expanding literary universe in an ongoing series, or a group focused on reading for professional learning on topics you are passionate about. Being in groups where we feel a strong sense of belonging help us all find more joy, and that makes the world a better place.

 

Recently, I was in a second grade classroom reading aloud from Carmen Agra Deedy’s magical picture book, The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet, and I took a moment to simply watch and soak in the smiles and responses of the children.

As if in slow motion, I watched the power of the read aloud in action: the way it was drawing the children closer to each other, the way it was drawing them closer to me and me to them, the way it was drawing them closer to this remarkable text, and the way it was drawing them closer to themselves, to their own hearts, and ideas, and dreams. And on the way, inexorably, the power of this practice was drawing them closer and closer to the lifelong love of and impact of reading itself.

I pictured to myself the beautiful image of this happening around the world and around our country on the very same day, February 1st, and how movements such as these that are tender and loving towards children are those that will give every child the most optimism and strength to face the future armed with the power of story.


Like the rooster in Carmen’s book, let’s be loud. Let’s speak up and stand up for the lives of all children as readers, and use the read aloud as a way to advocate for that. Every day for sure, but starting in an even bigger way on February 1st.



Pam Allyn is the Senior Vice President of Innovation and Development at Scholastic Education and the founder of LItWorld.

 

“The Standing Committee on Global Citizenship works to identify and address issues of broad concern to NCTE members interested in promoting global citizenship and connections across global contexts within the Council and within members’ teaching contexts.”