How to Teach 4th Grade: Read Aloud

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“I begin every session I ever lead with teachers by reading something aloud. Even if my assigned topic is something like spelling or assessment, I still begin by reading aloud because I believe it is the single most important classroom structure there is, and so I demonstrate it wherever I go.” (Wood Ray 1999)

I read aloud to my fourth grade students each day. I read with passion and I read with expression. It is my most ingrained ritual of my teaching career. Every read aloud book is an opportunity to connect with my students in a way that is personal and meaningful. Also, it allows the students to hear worthy literature read from a someone that cares deeply about books and the writers who write them.

Below is a list of titles that I will read to my students this year. I have purposely excluded picture books, although I read these often throughout the year as mentor texts. I reserve the right to switch up my list according to mood and class structure. Each book is special to me for various reasons. They are in no specific order:

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is a favorite. It is a novel written as poetry about a Sudanese war refugee adjusting to life in his adopted Minnesota. The boy, Kek, has seen his father and brother die in battle. He has seen babies die of starvation. He has never felt the bitter cold of a Minnesota winter. His only wish is to see his mother somehow return. This is remarkable story of hope.

A Jar of Dreams by Yoshiko Uchida is a longtime favorite of mine. I read this to my first class backing 1990 and continue to read it each year to my students. Yoshiko Uchida, “almost single-handedly created a body of Japanese-American literature for children, where none existed before.”(1.) This is a story of a Japanese family that struggles with racism during the Great Depression. I read this for it is a powerful book of the indomitable strength of family.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a classic adventure of city boy that endures a plane crash deep inside the Canadian wilderness. This grand tale of survival will mesmerize my students. I will read this mainly for fun although it is a meaningful book for kids dealing with divorcing parents.

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata This is a Newbery Award winner about a Japanese American family trying to make it in rural Georgia. The protagonist loses her older sister to cancer. I read this story for it gives a powerful message about the value of labor unions. Kira-Kira is essentially a story of love among family.

Chew on This, Everything You Don’t Want to Know about Fast Food by Eric SchlosserI normally read this book during my non-fiction literacy unit. Chew On This is disturbing in its portrayal of the American fast food industry. My students squirm uncomfortably from the information in this book. I read it each year in the hopes that they will think about the food they ingest.

Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo is a historical fiction novel about a boy sold into slavery in a carpet factory. This is a fictionalized account of the real Iqbal Masih. If you don’t know about him, you should. I read this so that the students can appreciate the horror that is child slavery.

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup is a wonderfully funny story of the pressures of making and keeping friends. I love that I get to speak in an Italian accent while reading aloud. I  occasionally make soup to celebrate the ending of this fine tale from Sharon Creech.

Fourth Grade Teachers, What will you be reading to your students this year? 

Which ever books you choose, read aloud with heart. They will remember you well for it.

Have a great year.

Applegate, K. (2007). Home of the brave. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends.

Creech, S. (2003). Granny torrelli makes soup. New York: Harper Collins Children’s Books.

D’Adamo, F. (2001). Iqbal. New York: Atheneum Book for Young Readers.

Kadohata, C. (2004). Kira-kira. New York, NY: Scholastic INC.

Paulsen, G. (1989). Hatchet. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers.

Ray, K. W. (1999). Wondrous words, writers and writing in the elementary classroom. Natl Council of Teachers.

Schlosser, E., & Wilson, C. (2007). Chew on this, everything you don’t want to know about fast food. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Uchida, Y. (1981). A jar of dreams. New York, NY: Scholastic INC.

1.Yoshiko Uchida from Encyclopedia of World Biography. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “How to Teach 4th Grade: Read Aloud

  1. My newest favorite is _Wonder_. The best line: If you have the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.

  2. Good stuff, Barry. Keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it coming 🙂

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