Educator and author Jessica Lahey reads Shakespeare and Dickens aloud to her seventh- and eighth-graders, complete with all the voices. Her students love being read to, and sometimes get so carried away with the story, she allows them to lie on the floor and close their eyes just to listen and enjoy it. Lahey reads short stories aloud, too: “My favorite story to read out loud has to be Poe's ‘Tell-tale Heart.’ I heighten the tension and get a little nuts-o as the narrator starts to really go off the rails. So much fun.”
While reading Dickens aloud helps students get used to his Victorian literary style, Lahey said that it’s also an opportunity for her to stop and explain rhetorical and literary devices they wouldn’t get on their own. And they read the Bard’s plays together, divvying up the parts, because “that’s how they are meant to be experienced.”
Reading aloud to older children -- even up to age 14, who can comfortably read to themselves -- has benefits both academic and emotional, says Jim Trelease, who could easily be called King of the Read-Aloud. Trelease, a Boston-based journalist, turned his passion for reading aloud to his children into The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979; it has since been an unequivocal bestseller with sales in the mult-millions, and Trelease is releasing the seventh, and final, edition in June.
Obviously, Trelease firmly believes in the value of reading to kids of all ages.
“The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade,” said Trelease, referring to a 1984 study performed by Dr. Thomas G. Sticht showing that kids can understand books that are too hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. “You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear.”