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by Jim Trelease
• Chapter 3 excerpts •
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This is a brief excerpt from
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
(Penguin, 2013, 7th edition)

Now available as both a paperback and e-book.

See also Handbook FAQs.

Handbook cover 2013 edition





Chapter 3: The stages of read-aloud—continued image of sixth-grader recalling book Gentle Ben

Shouldn’t there be a test to see if the class is truly learning from read-aloud?

"B"Y ALL MEANS, there should be a test—and there is one. Only you don’t give it. It’s the test of time, the real measure of anything we teach. What do they remember ten, twenty, thirty years from now? Of all the lessons taught, what lasted?

Kimberly Douglas, of Hillsboro, Ohio, had the satisfaction of actually learning the answer to that question. Back in 1989 she was in her second year of teaching when she picked up an early edition of this handbook and began reading to her classes. I’ll let her pick up the story in her e-mail to me:

I am now an administrator who works with first year teachers. In planning for an upcoming meeting and presentation on building relationships with students, I Facebook-messaged seventy-one of my former students, asking them to share their memories of being a sixth-grader in my classroom. I told them it didn't matter if they remembered how to divide fractions or knew the chemical symbol for copper, I wanted to know what they truly remembered.

The response has been overwhelming. They've remembered some pretty incredible things, but the common theme among all of their memories is the books we read together. We've discussed titles and authors and how they've read those same books to their own children. Keep in mind, these "kids" range in age from 26-37, and they've remembered: Gentle Ben; Bridge to Terabithia; From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; Hatchet; Where the Red Fern Grows; and many others. Several of them have also commented that they wish their children's teachers would read to them the way I did all those years ago


I would say both Kimberly and her students passed the test handsomely. As Kimberly’s e-mail attests, the reader- aloud is planting seeds she hopes will bear fruit with the students’ future children.

The seeds that are planted for the love of reading may not always bear immediate fruit, but if we are patient enough there will be rewards. Cindy Lovell tells her own story below from a striking vantage point in life. Considering Cindy’s current employer, there’s more than a grain of truth in the adage “What goes around comes around.”

My 4th grade teacher used to choose a chapter from a book, put it in context, read it to us, pause and explain or ask a question or two, and then say, “There! That’s just one chapter. If you liked it, here’s the book!” Needless to say he baited many hooks, and that’s where I met Tom Sawyer. I didn’t know Mark Twain was a famous author or that he had written many other books until my first week in junior high school. I stopped in the library to ask if they had any books by this author Mark Twain. The librarian grinned and gave me a Twain collection of short stories they were about to discard.

Fast-forward to my junior year of high school. I was bored with school and dropped out (much like my hero, Twain, and his boy, Huck), even though I had always wanted to be a teacher. I went to work, married, had two children, had my own business, and still read for pure pleasure during every free second.

One day at the age of 35 I had an epiphany. Two years and 9 months later I had a college degree and began teaching, eventually earning a PhD. Now I tell my students that “PhD” stands for Post High school Dropout. I too0k a nontraditional path and was successful only because of my love of reading.

—Cindy Lovell
Executive Director
Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum
Hannibal, Missouri


Topics covered in Chapter 3 of print and e-book editions:

NEXT: Chapter Four—Do's and Dont's of Read-Aloud


Chapter Three — p. 1   p. 2   p. 3   Footnotes

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