World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) is an annual advocacy day that unites people around the world by highlighting the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. It’s presented by global literacy nonprofit LitWorld and sponsored by Scholastic. Join us on February 5 by encouraging your students to grab a book and read aloud in class!
Now in its tenth year, WRAD has grown worldwide and is celebrated in over 173 countries—and counting! Here, world-renowned literacy expert, author, motivational speaker, and Senior Vice President, Innovation & Development, Scholastic Education, Pam Allyn answers frequently asked questions about World Read Aloud Day.
What was the inspiration behind World Read Aloud Day?
The inspiration came right from a child. I was visiting a classroom where I was sharing a read aloud to a group of children, and they were loving it. Afterwards, a little boy asked me, “Mrs. Allyn, why don't we do this more often?”
I replied, “You mean the read-aloud?”
He said, “Yes! Our teacher says we don't have time for this anymore because we have to get ready for the tests.”
I said to him, “Well, do you know that it is proven that kids who get a lot of read-alouds do better on those same tests?!”
He said, so excitedly, “We have to let people know about this! And I have an idea!”
“What is it?” I replied.
“Well, when it's my birthday everyone gives me a lot of attention! Let's have a big party for the read-aloud.”
And so that is how World Read Aloud Day was born, right then and there. I rushed back to our office and told my team. I asked them, “Is there any way we could make a big, big celebration for the read-aloud?” That wonderful team helped me develop World Read Aloud Day. We shared that message all over social media, which was kind of a new idea at the time, using #WorldReadAloudDay. The celebration grew person by person, reader by reader, and in that first year alone we had thousands of people saying, “YES—let's make World Read Aloud Day a celebration!”
Are you surprised by the global success of World Read Aloud Day?
I am in one way because it's such a beautiful, pure, and delightful thing to celebrate. It is such a rare occasion when everyone comes together for the love of children and for the joy of any one thing—in this case, reading aloud. Yet, I am not surprised at all. People are so good at heart. Anne Frank said that so famously and I have always agreed.
World Read Aloud Day is about our best impulses, our best and deepest work to make children happy. It conveys a very complex idea in a very simple way—that something so meaningful to a child is meaningful to us all. We can all love World Read Aloud Day and see it for what it is—a time to come together and savor the profound power of reading. We can also understand that around the world there are many people who will never get the benefit of the read-aloud, or literacy in general, if we don't advocate for it. Making sure that everyone has access to stories as a human right has drawn major attention, and we should all raise our voices to make it happen.
What can you tell us about this year’s event?
I am so excited about this year's World Read Aloud Day taking place on February 5. Peter Reynolds, legendary author and illustrator of The Word Collector, Say Something and Happy Dreamer, created signature artwork just for this event, and it so beautifully captures the magic of World Read Aloud Day and the inclusivity of it. This day is not about us all reading the very same book—it's about people getting to choose, about having the agency to know which story is going to create the most joy for the reader and listener.
Also, it's Scholastic's 100th anniversary this year and World Read Aloud Day is part of that history, encouraging people to share and enjoy stories together. The world is constantly evolving, but the read-aloud remains relevant and urgent. This year, we’re encouraging people to share their read-aloud moments on social media and tag their friends to join the fun, along with using #WorldReadAloudDay and tagging @Scholastic and @litworldsays.
Why is reading aloud so beneficial for children?
Reading aloud immerses children in the sounds and feelings of literary and informational language. Children who are read aloud to daily perform better academically than those who are not read aloud to. In addition, our children are absorbing grammar and vocabulary seamlessly through the read-aloud. There are even studies that show children learn the rules of grammar best by hearing read-alouds!
When read aloud to, our children can absorb and internalize more complex information than they may be able to when reading independently. It is also profoundly beneficial for children in the area of social-emotional learning. The nearness to a reader, the sound of a reader's voice, and the companionship and discussion of a shared text all tell children they are not alone in the world.
Do you have any special read-aloud tips you can share with teachers?
One is to practice! Take your favorite book and read aloud to everyone—your own kids, your best friend, your dog! Release your inhibitions so your children can see the joy and delight that is possible in a world of reading. Another recommendation is not to "over teach" read-alouds. Sometimes I see teachers stopping on every page to ask a comprehension question, but it's ok for children not to know all the vocabulary in advance or to answer a prediction question on every page. Try to pace yourself on this. It's fine to use these tactics, but if we interrupt the story too much for our own teachings, we miss an essential point of the read-aloud, which is for children to fall in love with reading for a lifetime.
Let the power of story guide children and immerse them. Let them fall through the pages and into the story! And the same goes for you as the teacher. Relax and enjoy your experience. Watch the faces of your children. Know that the sound of your voice and your connection to your students and the text will change them forever. It will be what they remember for the rest of their lives. Appreciate that.
Is reading aloud endangered or thriving right now?
I believe the read-aloud is thriving enormously. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 7th Edition shows that the percentage of parents reading aloud to their children has gone up 50% since 2014 and the American Academy of Pediatrics cites the read-aloud as a key part of a child's healthy development.
Yet, it does worry me greatly to think about how technology is increasingly consuming every waking minute of our daily lives. This leaves less time for quality read-aloud moments among families. But, I think there is a happy medium where stories can be read from various devises such as tablets and phones. I also think we need to keep fighting for the role of the read-aloud during the school day, bringing students together and providing an anchor for teaching deep ideas about texts.
What does reading aloud mean to you personally?
To me, the read-aloud is the signifier of love, connection and the deepest and most important parts of my life with my family and with the children I serve. I have very old and significant memories of my mother reading to me when I was very young. Her voice was so kind and it guided me into a lifetime of joy in reading. I also have memories of my father reading the sports pages to me in high school at the dinner table. I loved the sound of his voice and I am always grateful for all of that.
When my husband and I had our daughters, read-alouds drew us very, very close as a family, from the earliest texts to the chapter books we all read later. We sobbed over Little Women and laughed over funny passages. As our daughters got older, we read poems together, finding lines we liked and sharing them with one another.
And for all my students—the boys at Children's Village facing many, many challenges in the foster care system, the children of the New York City public schools, the children supported by LitWorld, the children I have met in all my travels to LitCamps every summer, and so many more—they have all changed the way I think about stories. They teach me so, so much, not only about reading, but about life when we share these texts together.
What are some of your favorite read-alouds?
This is the hard one because there are so many! Always, I love Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. I have very fond memories of a read-aloud I did in Nairobi, Kenya and how the children loved that book in so many profound ways. I also love Langston Hughes. His poems are incredibly beautiful and deceptively simple, children really love them, too. But, his writing is also wrenchingly sad and even revolutionary, which children understand.
I love to read aloud anything by Carmen Agra Deedy. She is a storyteller and so her books are built to read aloud. And, lastly, I love books that kids love. When I read a Dav Pilkey book with a child and we are both screaming with laughter, well, that just makes my day.
Why would you encourage educators to get involved with World Read Aloud Day?
I think it is really important for our kids to see the beauty of celebrating something so simple and easy that makes people happy. In addition, kids should know that reading aloud and sharing stories is really important. We are advocating for the human right of reading. What a beautiful day to commemorate that.
Where can everybody follow along on social media?
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