Build Fluency with Books That Are Fun for Kids to Read Aloud Over and Over and Over Again
Fluency has been such a hot topic lately. Our students are tested and timed on passages to check their reading progress. There is so much to fluency, but it has come to mean only the speed and accuracy with which our children read. As literacy educators, we know that fluency is so much more than speed and accuracy. To be fluent is to read in a way that is smooth and interesting. Read aloud is no fun if you are rushing through your reading. Pacing and rhythm are key. Anyone who has ever heard a story read aloud by Mem Fox or Lester Laminack knows that there is a skill to reading aloud that has so much more to do with meaning than with speed and accuracy.
In my short time as a school librarian, I have realized that some books lend themselves to being read aloud more than others. With these books, I notice that I get better and better at reading the book the more times I have read it to a class. Rereading allows me to get to know the intended rhythm, to know the characters and understand their intent a bit better, and to work through some of the more complex sentences until they "sound right." It actually gets pretty fun to read it for the 20th time when I've perfected a book. I am having a great time just playing with my own read aloud skills.
I want my students to have this same fun with books, so I am starting to pull together a basket of books that would be fun to read aloud over and over again. I plan to introduce it as a basket that they may want to visit if they want to work hard on one book to perfect -- a book they might want to read to another class or to a sibling. I want to give them the opportunity to have fun playing with the rhythm and cadence of read aloud. I am trying to find books that just invite us to read them again and again - not because we are working on fluency, and not because we are practicing to read them aloud. Reading these books over and over and trying new things with expression, pacing and dialogue is just pure fun!
Authors That Are Fun to Read Aloud
Many authors have several books that lend themselves to reading aloud. Mo Willems is the first author that comes to mind. His books about Pigeon and those starring Piggie and Elephant are fun to read aloud no matter what your age. The characters have such personality, and it is fun to take them on as a reader. Pigeon is always begging for something and playing with the language of begging and pleading is always fun. The Piggie and Elephant books are written completely in dialogue. Pairs of students have fun taking the part of one character and reading the book together.
Mary Had a Little Lamp is a great fun take-off of Mary Had a Little Lamb that is quite amusing. The rhythm and rhyme is fun and since kids are familiar with the original, this new version is a fun one to play with.
A great read aloud is Meet Wild Boars by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall. These boars are rude and there is always a surprise. There are some sound effects that are fun to read, and the pattern and predictability are fun. But the best part is the humor throughout -- the things these boars do (like clip toenails in your bed) are so funny that pacing and expression are critical.
I want to include books written in letters in this basket. Dear Mrs Larue: Letters From Obedience School by Mark Teague and Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems by Janet Stevens are two of my favorites. When reading letters, it is easier to take on the voice of a character. And letters are read just a bit differently than narrative.
Please Say Please! Penguin's Guide to Manners by Margery Cuyler follows a question/answer pattern. The author asks fun questions about manners complete with sound effects. The answer is much more refined -- it's a fun back and forth type of book.
Every one of Robert Munsch's books is fun to read aloud. His stories are outrageous and several lines repeat over and over throughout the story. Moira's Birthday is my personal favorite -- the font and size of text changes to let the reader know when to raise the volume.
Another amusing author is Melanie Watt, who writes the Chester books. In both Chester and Chester's Back!, the cat in the story (Chester) is trying to take over as author. Both books become a battle between Chester and Melanie Watt (with Chester's work in red pen). It is fun to read the story with Chester's interruptions. Melanie Watt also writes the Scaredy Squirrel books, which are great fun to read aloud. The germ warning at the front of the book, Scaredy Squirrel's inflexible schedule, and his list of things in his emergency kit provide different types of reading that inspire different cadences.
What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum is not just another bedtime story. Patrick is trying to go to sleep but realizes he is without lots of things he needs for bedtime. Every time Patrick informs his granny of the thing he is missing, she screams, "What?" The pattern and repetition in this book are enjoyable and the font changes support great read alouds.
Beware of the Frog by William Bee is a book that I hope becomes a classic. This is the story of a sweet old lady named Mrs. Collywobbles. Really, I could say her name a million times. It is fun every, single time. (Kids like to say it too!) There are rhyming chants throughout the book as well as questions for audiences to answer.
I can't talk about great books to read aloud without including Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. The rhyme and repetition in this short book are charming.