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The Power of Reading Aloud: Sharing Stories in the Middle School Classroom and Beyond
Todd Wolov

“We are the stories we tell. Each of you has an important story to tell which is just as important as that of any adult, author, or teacher.” I often say these words to my classes of fifth and sixth graders as we embark on our writing journeys throughout the year. So why then, should middle school teachers or parents of middle schoolers still take precious class or family time to read and discuss literature with their preteens and early teenage daughters and sons, especially when the children can now do this for themselves?   

There are many valid answers as to why we should commit to reading aloud to middle school students. Here are just a few…

  • Reading aloud helps our burgeoning readers to hear the cadence and rhythm of literature in order to continue to build fluency. It is a way to help our students focus attention in this age of distractibility. This is a practice that harkens back to the reason behind reading aloud to toddlers.

  • Reading aloud exposes our students to books and stories that would normally be bypassed for the latest tome of young adult dystopian fiction.

  • Reading aloud is just plain fun and one of my students’ favorite activities in the classroom. Most importantly, reading aloud gives us a shared experience and a common language, allowing us to explore our world together.

  • By reading aloud, I am able to direct my students to common themes that we can connect with across multiple texts. Certain books can serve as an anchor for classroom discussions and future explorations. This also allows students to make the bigger connections between the characters we read about and discuss, their own lives, and the larger world around them.

  • We can foster discussions about empathy, relationships, and otherness through common themes and similar characters. These conversations help students to begin to explore their own lives, albeit in a safe context and environment.

One of the biggest benefits of reading aloud and discussing literature is the way it contributes to a student’s understanding of self. By hearing about and discussing the struggles of others, our children can begin to explore and understand their own inner landscapes and difficulties no matter how big or small, real or imagined, because everyone has an important story.

Tap into the power of reading aloud with some of these great titles:

  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

  • The Boxer by Kathleen Karr

  • Holes by Louis Sachar

  • Who Put that Hair in my Toothbrush by Jerry Spinelli

  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton