Before continuing with this post I want to give fair-warning that it my mind there is no replacement for teacher read alouds. Aside from what we know about reading aloud being one of the most important things teachers can do with children, (building many important foundational skills, introducing vocabulary, providing a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helping children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about) it is also first and foremost one of the best ways for teachers to build relationships with students.
I read to my students every single day, whether teaching kindergarten or fifth grade. I did not miss a day. And I am not talking about reading aloud the prescribed texts from the local education authority or county. I mean books that I wanted to read, books that the children wanted me to read, books that we discovered at the library, books that children brought in from home. Some we read once. Some we read over and over and over again. Every single day. My story time was at the end of the day. 15 minutes. Backpacks and coats ready, we sat on the carpet and I read a story. We talked about it, laughed together, complained about characters and their actions, and wiped a tear away when Mog died. This reading time was never about sequencing the story. Or making a story map. Or listing character traits. It was not something I needed to plan for. It was a time of enjoyment and bonding together.
And even though I didn’t consider those 15 minutes a ‘teaching’ session, boy did those kids learn. There is nothing better as a teacher when you observe a child who is not yet reading, open a familiar book in the reading corner and ‘read’ with remembered words, gestures, facial expressions and inflection. When they bicker over who gets to ‘read’ ‘Pumpkin Soup’. When a beginner writer writes the sentence, “I was crushed” instead of “I was sad” after reading ‘Martha Speaks’. Proud moments, because of 15 minute read-alouds.
So the point of this post is…?
Dear reader, there are definitely times that read-aloud videos are beneficial in the classroom. I always left a few links to online resources if I had a sub, along with a pile of books. Some subs can feel a bit nervous reading to children, and I get that. Put me in front of a sea of faces at a professional development meeting and ask me to talk, and I mumble incoherently, red faced before slinking as low down as I can in my chair. But close the door in my classroom, and I can put on an Oscar winning performance worthy of Olivier himself. Give your sub a break by leaving video links to a well loved story, or a new one that gives your class something to talk about.
Also, so many classrooms have access to these resources, whether through a smart board, computers or tablets. So instead of a group of children bickering over your one copy of ‘Pumpkin Soup’, share the link and have them watch and read along to their own version on a tablet. (The real book is what they will want though!)
They can be used in literacy centers as a great tool for re-reading a book, stopping, pausing, rewinding and replaying. And they are a great resource if you are following a county directed text and are working on characters, settings, main idea, etc.
The best of the bunch, Storyline Online is a free website and now app hosting read-louds by famous faces. These are presented in a story time setting, with the child as the audience, the actor reading, cutting to pictures from the book. Updated regularly, they are a joy for students (and teachers) to watch. Chris Pine. Say no more.
Polka Dot Tots is a free YouTube channel, so whether or not you are able to open it depends on the permission settings in your school. These are straight forward read aloud books, in that the book is facing the camera, and you watch the reader turn the pages as she reads. What I particularly like is the choice of books. There are books that I never want to read aloud: I don’t like books that are linked to a Star Wars or Pokemon franchise, for instance. It’s a personal thing, I don’t think they translate well into simple stories and often I think they are not well written. But I know that children like them, and for many children, those books are their way into reading. For early readers at self selected reading times, these books are an ideal choice.
OverDrive is a fantastic resource connecting you to hundreds of digital and audio books online. Libby makes accessing those resources even easier on a phone or tablet. I have a personal account linking to my local library, and have listened to tons of audio books. Did you know that there is also a kids video section? Some of the selections are movies from books, think ‘Wonder’ and ‘Paddington Bear’. But if you search further there are read aloud videos for popular books. The selection depends on your library, but it is certainly worth checking out. And again, it is free!
Another free YouTube channel, Grammy has tons of books that will be familiar to children in your class, and introduces new ones that they are sure to enjoy. She has a gentle, lilting, almost mesmerizing voice and you can just imagine sitting in her lap whilst she reads. Heads up: this channel does have ads.
I hope you found some online resources you might be able to use in your classroom. Happy reading!