Reading out loud to children facilitates their readiness for formal reading instruction in oral language, concepts of printed words, and phonemic awareness — the development of which provides a strong foundation for supporting literacy in the early school years. But this cherished reading time is more than academic; it’s absolutely magical.
The directress starts by asking children to recap what had happened the previous day and many hands shoot up. They all contribute, some in greater detail than others, pieces of the story that make the whole. And that’s the thing — this group dynamic is representative of the collaborative nature of the Montessori lower elementary classroom; all voices are heard, each child is valued, their voices part of a bigger picture. They remind one another of this important part of the story or that one, adding to the collective intelligence of the group. Something snaps into place; it’s time to get started.
Read-aloud is fascinating to observe. A small room, absolutely packed with children, is completely and totally quiet. There is only the sound of paper being folded and periodically, the shifting of bodies. One could, quite literally, hear a pin drop. Each child understands and respects the expectations; they are to listen, whether with hands busy finger-knitting or folding origami, drawing pictures, or simply folded in one’s lap. The majority of the children choose to do something while listening, but they are indeed listening.
When the directress reads a humorous or light passage, the children erupt into laughter. Then, like magic, it is quiet again.
Being together in this small space, one cannot help but notice the sense of community. The older children help the first-years, using hand signals instead of words — guiding them through a tricky fold in origami, offering a hand when a stitch is off, sharing scissors and pencils all in complete silence, save for the voice of the directress, who reads animatedly from the book. A treasured time of day, read-aloud is a time to relax and refresh the mind before another work cycle.
These well-loved books are on their way out — clearly, there’s a whole lot of reading going on in here!