We have been so excited at Emerson to celebrate our love of reading with students around the country this week. We've joined together to celebrate the 2012 World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by LitWorld. This remarkable organization, led by led by Executive Director Pam Allyn, cultivates "literacy leaders worldwide through transformational literacy experiences that build connection, understanding, resilience and strength."
Here at Emerson, we have connected with schools near and far as we work together to get kids excited about reading. Throughout, my focus has been getting kids to read aloud to other kids through video chats to other schools. At a school across town, 2nd graders read Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham to our kindergarten students. Today, we had a great time connecting with kindergartners at Baker Elementary School in Michigan, as we read Dr. Seuss's ABC Book aloud together.
What have students gotten out of these experiences? To start with, they've been excited about sharing their love of reading. But more than that, they're sensing that books are a shared experience that bring us together. It was so fun this morning to hear kindergartners in Michigan laughing at the same parts we laughed at. Mrs. Anderson's students loved waving to Lola in our class as we read the L page: "Little Lola Lopp."
Further, these experiences help broaden students' experiences. We connected with a 3rd grade class at Falmouth Elementary School in Maine, where students had just come from snowshoeing for their PE class. Our first graders were amazed! We worked on our mapping skills, talking about how it was breakfast time for us, but lunchtime for them. These connections and discussions about the weather help make these distances more concrete for students.
Where do we think this can go? Video connections between schools offer the opportunity for older students to practice their reading and performing with real audiences, without heavy set-up costs or travel time. Whether it's preparing book recommendations (like in Reading Rainbow) or poems to perform, these video conferences will allow our students the opportunity to read to a real audience. We shared with one 3rd grade class and I realized that we hadn't prepared enough as students were nervous reading in front of the camera.
These experiences can also get kids excited about writing. Our kindergarten class is excited to write letters to Mrs. Anderson's class in Michigan, extending this activity even further into authentic writing projects.
Even though the video feed is often blurry, the students get a sense of the immediate reactions of other children. They have to speak up loudly so the others can hear them. They love hearing the audience laugh in response.
It's been a great experience that we want to develop even more!
©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books