Choosing the Right Book for Read-Aloud
Reading aloud is one of the most important things that any teacher or parent can do for their children. Reading aloud not only increases vocabulary, but it nourishes children’s minds with a plethora of ideas which is crucial for their social-emotional development. One of our duties in our role as a teacher at Astor International School, is to ensure that we provide access to diverse books and let children’s interest drive the choice of books.
“But which book should I choose to read aloud to my child?” – this is a common dilemma for parents. As a result, it is not uncommon to see parents (and teachers) stick to the tried and tested books and restrict read-alouds to fairy tales or books that have reached the realms of a “classic”. The solution to this conundrum lies in Dr Rudine Sims Bishop’s seminal essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors”. She mentions that books are sometimes ‘windows’, “offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange”. Books are also like ‘mirrors’. She adds, “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
A simple rule of thumb is to select books, that the child is being read, find characters or settings that are similar to his own. When children do not have access to books with characters similar to themselves, the message that is inadvertently conveyed is that their identities do not matter and that they are not worthy enough to find a place in books. On the other hand, for children who belong to dominant social groups, it is pertinent to expose them to books that depict the multicultural real world.
At Astor, we schedule public library trips with our students to help nurture and nourish our children's interest in books. However, choosing a book for young children is not a matter of picking up any book that lies within your reach. Let us ask ourselves if the book serves as a window or a mirror and that in itself is the first step in choosing just the right book for your child.