a collection of 50 read-aloud stories and articles
aimed primarily at preteens and teens (5th grade
and up), all selected and annotated with commentary
Trelease. (See Hey!
Listen to This for younger students.) They
range from short stories and chapters from young
adult novels to newspaper columns and narrative
poems like "The Cremation of Sam Magee." The INDEX below
contains the book's table of contents. (A
note on the Laura-Jenna Bush book of the same title.)
from Introduction to the book
n 1983, the U.S. Department of Education created
a national Commission on Reading. Its challenge:
Examine the more than 10,000 reading research
projects that had been done in the last quarter
century and find out what really works.
The result was a landmark report
called Becoming a Nation
of Readers, a compendium of findings,
ideas, and recommendations that has been the basis
for major changes in the way many of the nation's
schools teach reading.
Commission's most immediate finding was this:
"The single most important activity for
building the knowledge required for eventual
success in reading is reading aloud to children."
this came as a shock to
most parents, many teachers and librarians were
not surprised. What surprised even them, however,
was the Commission's recommendation that the
practice of reading aloud "should
continue throughout the grades." The
reasoning behind this recommendation is many-fold.
Research shows that it is not until eighth
grade that a student's READING level catches
up to his or her LISTENING level. Until that
time, most students are capable of hearing, understanding,
and enjoying material that is more complicated
that what they could read.
material being read serves as a commercial for
the pleasures of print. The "pleasure"
connection is essential in creating lifetime readers
and of paramount importance during the difficult
teenage years when reading attrition is likely
to take place. Two factors make up what might be
called a "lifetime reader" formula:
- Human beings will only do over and over what brings
them PLEASURE. (If you hate liver, there is little
chance you will repeatedly eat liver.)
- Like driving a car or swimming, reading is an
ACCRUED skill. That is, in order to get better
at it, one must do it.
only way to improve your reading is by reading.
And the more you read, the better you get at it.
The better you get at it, the more you like it. And
the more you like it, the more you do it, ad infinitum.
But students will not do it if they hate it because
human beings only do over and over what they like. Thus
we are back to the concept of reading aloud to
students in order to make the pleasure connection.
The impact such practice has on adolescent reading
attitudes and appetites is witnessed by the Solomon
Lewenberg Middle School (grades 6-7-8)
in the Mattapan section of Boston, Massachusetts.
As I describe in The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin,
2006), the Lewenberg was an inner-city school drawing
from some of the lowest socioeconomic corners of
the city, and its reading scores ranked last among
the 22 middle schools in the school system. Four
years after it instituted daily sessions of reading
aloud to students, along with sustained silent
reading (SSR), the school's reading scores rose
from last place to first in the district.
Since the Commission on Reading's
recommendations, increasing numbers of parents
and teachers would ask me,
"What can I read to teens? Is there any kind
of collection available?"
With that in mind, I created
this collection for older students. The anthology
format is especially ideal for this latter group
for three reasons:
- The frantic lifestyle
of both the parent and the adolescent;
- The brevity of the classroom
- The sometimes shallow
nature of the adult's personal reading background.
making the selections for this collection, I used
a simple tool: hindsight. First, I asked lifetime
readers, "What did you like to read for yourself
when you were a teenager?"
I also recalled what
I used to read to my children, Jamie and Elizabeth,
when they were teensscraping and stacking the
dinner dishes for washing. While they accomplished
the dish chores, I would read aloud newspaper columns,
magazine articles, sometimes portions of a novel
that I was reading for myself. Lifetime readers
swim in a sea of print from many different sources not
newspaper selections are human interest columns
from some of America's best journalists, along
with a number of short but powerful op-ed essays.
The nonfiction selections range from the origins
of teenagers' favorite fast foods (potato chips,
pretzels, peanuts, and popcorn) to a father
and son's trip to Fenway Parkinterrupted
by a broken bat flying into the stands. The locales
varied from a filthy Soviet prison camp to the
immaculate bedside of a brother who remained in
bed for nearly 33 years, from the sidewalk perch
of a black New Yorker trying to hail a cab in midwinter
to the iceberg home of a shipwrecked sailor.
each selection I have attempted to rectify what
I have long felt was a mistake on the part of publishers.
They go to great expense publishing the work of
the author, but devote only an inch of copy in
the book or on its jacket to biographical information.
Books are written by people, not machines; they
are created by men and women with fascinating personal
stories of how they came to be writers or how they
created a particular story.
that in mind, each selection is preceded by an
introduction or author profile. Among them you
the book I kept in mind the framework of a "front porch."
Novelist Josephine Humphreys once explained the
success of southern writers by the fact that so
many of them got their start sitting on front porches
and watching the town go by. "From a porch,
other people's lives look interesting,"
she explained. In a sense, the listeners to these
stories will be sitting on their adolescent porches,
watching and listening to the parade of characters
in this book. My hope is they will be interesting
enough to somehow lure the passive observer off
the porch and into their pages for the lifetime
- An award-winning novelist
who persevered in spite of 1,147 rejection
notices from publishers (Allan Eckert);
- A famous poet who was
mistaken for a thief and shot at while writing
one of his most famous poems (Robert W.
- Another poet who graduated
from Harvard with straight A's, soon thereafter
jokingly wrote one of America's most famous
poems for a Sunday newspaper, was paid five
dollars for it, and never wrote anything
of any merit for the rest of his life (Ernest
Lawrence Thayer "Casey at
- A man who spent his
teenage years as a "groupie" at
the George Burns radio show, then grew up
to become of the three most famous science
fiction writers in the world; (Ray Bradbury)
- An author who grew up
in an alcoholic home and never spent more
than five months in any one school as a child
but wrote a hundred books by age 50 (Gary
- A Pulitzer Prize-winning
novelist who "disappeared" for
the next 40 years (Harper Lee);
- A world-famous mystery
writer who turned out to be two people instead
of one, and neither of them famous (Ellery
- An author who wrote
India's most famous stories while living
happily in the United States, and then was
driven out of the country by a drunken brother-in-law
and nosey American reportersa half
century before grocery store tabloids were
born (Rudyard Kipling).