Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

John Schu and The Gift of Story

Wakelet Link of all Tweets

Guest Author: Kitty Donohoe

On Thursday, November 10, 2022, the #G2Great Chat enjoyed a memorable conversation with Mr. John Schu regarding his book THE GIFT OF STORY.

In John Schu’s GIFT OF STORY, Katherine Applegate offers a fitting quote showing just how timely John’s book is.

“When you feel lost in the black hole of test scores and Zoom meetings, in crises big and small, in challenged titles and tight budgets, this book will be your touchstone. For every teacher and librarian and parent who’s placed the right book in the right hands at the right time, THE GIFT OF STORY is a reminder that you are not just molding minds, you are nurturing souls.”

And many of us know what that is like, and yet when we stick our heads out of the mire of all the “yuck” we experience, magic can happen. When we remember that story truly is a gift, when we remember the little ones who benefit from those stories, we are reminded of what is important.  When I taught on Zoom school for a year, I forgot there was a pandemic whenever I saw the dear faces of my second grade students reflected on the screen.  And in Grace Lin’s book WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER, there is a wonderful quote about stories.  A stonecutter and a storyteller are imprisoned by the villain of the story.  However, this is what the stonecutter says: “For to be in prison with the Storyteller is to not be in prison at all.” Stories set us free, wherever we are physically, we are in the story mentally. Grace Lin got me and my second graders through lockdown, and that is a gift indeed.

The Good to Great Twitter Chat featuring John Schu offered educators, librarians, and parents, a chance to join in and celebrate the joy of stories.  We shared our stories with each other and in the process exchanged book ideas, and came out a little fuller, a little happier, because that is what happens when you share stories. That is what humans have been doing since before there was even the written word.  We shared stories, we felt joy, and we drew closer to each other in the exchange.  That is how community is formed.

While I have never met John in person, I have met him on Zoom and through social media. This quote from the book and the experience of those who know him well is so true. John Schu is infectious with joy.  This was so evident in the chat.  And we all know that this love of books he so avidly shares with others has created a worldwide pandemic of joyful reading for young readers. And isn’t that the kind of pandemic we all want to happen?

In his book, THE GIFT OF STORY, John includes quotes from authors regarding their experiences with story.  This quote from Dav Pilkey really speaks to so many young readers who can relate to the challenges that one of their favorite authors had.

This is so pertinent. How often have we as educators, teachers, or librarians, seen joy light the face of a child who sees themself reflected in the pages of a book.  For books are magic, they can say: I see you, I hear you, I know you.  And everyone needs this!

These are words of wisdom from Fran McVeigh, making room for reading both physically and mentally. And choice, choice, choice!

Dr. Mary Howard points out basically how we have a choice in education.  What are we going to choose?  Are we making time for stories for children? Or are we NOT? It is up to us.  

Often when I get overwhelmed with all the mandates imposed upon teachers I find myself unable to concentrate and focus.  My planned day wavers before my eyes as more and more is expected of educators and children.  But then suddenly, I spy the pile of read aloud books I have on my desk and they shout out to me, “Remember us? Your old friends? Your new friends?” And then, the calm comes, the antidote for all the chaos – a good story.  John reminds us of the importance of story. And the books truly do call out to me and the students. When the classroom reading life is in order, everything else magically falls into place.

Wow, click on that link readers and discover wonderful books to add to your read aloud pile, or your classroom library!  We all need new ideas for books to share with kids.

Click on this link to see the list of even MORE books Mr. Schu suggests!  What a treasure trove!

And another great book idea resource!  Click on the link to see the article!

This chat was a joyous exchange of a shared love of BOOKS and STUDENTS READING! 

In his book, John has organized and curated tremendous resources. This is done in an innovative and helpful way.  

One thing he does is to have short book reviews of myriads of books throughout THE GIFT OF STORY.  It is so user friendly. Busy educators and librarians can thumb through it at-a-glance when looking for resources.

A very clever and creative device Mr. Schu uses throughout his book is his use of hearts to tie it all together. One of my favorites is the embedded QR codes in hearts.  One section of his book has book trailer links in the hearts like this:


Another lovely way he incorporates heart embedded QR codes includes links to articles like this one by Dr. Sayantani DasGupta, pediatrician and children’s author:

“Stories Are Good Medicine: Literacy, Health, and Representation”

There are so many other wonderful resources in Mr. Schu’s book THE GIFT OF STORY. I would have to copy and paste the whole book in here in order to mention them all. But you can get them in this marvelous book that is a true friend to all who love books and want to pass this love around, just like Mr. John Schu!

Thank you Mr. Schu for being a light for children and book lovers all over the world. Thank you #G2Great Chat for making a space each Thursday evening for like-minded people to come and share their stories.  We all see you and appreciate you.  We are a community!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

About Kitty Donohoe, this week’s guest blogger:

Kitty Donohoe teaches second grade just a gull’s cry from the Pacific Ocean at Roosevelt Elementary in Santa Monica, CA. Her debut picture book, HOW TO RIDE A DRAGONFLY, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, comes out May 23, 2023. Publisher: Penguin Random House/Anne Schwartz Books

Rebellious Read Alouds: Inviting Conversations About Diversity

Wakelet collection of tweets from the #G2Great chat here

By Fran McVeigh

On Thursday, May 19, 2022, #G2Great welcomed Vera Ahiyya to a twitter chat to celebrate Rebellious Read Alouds: Inviting Conversations About Diversity with Children’s Books. This book had been on my radar since this tweet earlier this year.

As a teacher and author of children’s books, Vera understands both the power and the interest of children in books that spark conversations and Rebellious Read Alouds definitely led the twitter conversation.

Vera doesn’t mince words.

One important word.


Six letters.

In response. In affirmation. In solidarity.

Resources such as time is always stretched. But Vera reminds us that we must ALWAYS allow time for heart connections to books. Honoring student experiences and points of view is a critical component of a read aloud. It’s NEVER about checking off a time slot in a schedule.

This post is going to feature many of Vera Ahiyya’s quotes and her tweets from the chat because she adds a new voice to our read aloud considerations. (And some other tweets sprinkled in.) Two sources for inspiration include this pre-chat quote and the book dedication.

Vera’s book dedication answers WHY! Why this book? Why now?

So let’s explore. What is the rebellion?

Why rebel against the quiet? Too often the silent have been ignored or dismissed. Too often the silent have not been seen or heard. Too often silence has covered up the need to share thoughts and to grow ideas. Too often silence has kept students and adults from reaching their potential.

No more.

What is the Goal of a Read Aloud?

One goal is definitely to ensure that students LOVE books. Read Alouds will be joyous. Students will want to read the books . . . over and over!

What conditions are necessary for Rebellious Read Alouds?

Build Community

A community is safe where all students (and teachers) feel valued. They trust each other. They know that their contributions to the class are not only welcomed, but are encouraged routinely.

Provide Time

Another condition is that time is provided in the daily schedule for Read Alouds. Teachers do not have to “Sneak Read” their Read Alouds. Read Alouds are encouraged in buildings with strong reading cultures and leadership.

ALLOW Student Responses

Students need read alouds that allow them time to think, react, or respond. The work is too important to be rushed. Students also need time to take the lead in responses as they develop speaking, listening, reading and writing competence and confidence.

Include Families in Conversations

School communities need to be more inclusive. Families can be a source of input as well as output for developing skills, content, and interest in literacy activities. As their child’s first teacher, they have unique insights into their dreams and the possibilities in front of them.

In Closing . . .

The #g2great chats are now usually six questions with the final question asking for an application of the learning, a shift in thinking, orsome evidence of action going forward. Let’s circle back to Vera Ahiyya’s dedication for this book.

As we consider John Lewis’s words, where and when will you “speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble”? Where will YOU begin?

Additional Resources:

Free resources from Corwin link

Background from Bishop and Hammond link

Sample Text link

The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page

by Mary Howard

Your enthusiastic #G2great co-moderators, Fran, Val, Jenn, Amy (and Mary) have long held the topic of read aloud very near and dear to our collective hearts. Our excitement was once again elevated as first grade teacher Maria Walther joined another read aloud celebration as first-time guest host on 3/7/19. An engaging conversation quickly ensued as soon as we opened the #G2Great twitter gate to celebrate her new book, The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page (Corwin, 2018)

When I first held Maria’s book in my hands, I opened to the first page where the heading in bolded caps reached out and grabbed me by the heartstrings: 


My eyes moved excitedly down the page as I happily highlighted her words: 

First and foremost, a read aloud should be a joyful celebration for all. For you, for your students, and indirectly, for the author and illustrator who toiled over each word and every image that lies on and between the covers of the book. (Maria Walther, p 1)

Already held in joyful readerly captivity, Maria’s next sentence elevated my state of being:

In my mind, a picture book is a piece of art created to be cherished and applauded. Right from the start, I give you permission to simply READ ALOUD–no questions, no stopping, no after-reading conversations.

Well that didn’t take long. I hadn’t even left the first page and already JOY was the emotional hook that kept my face glued to each page that followed all the way to the end.

Before our chat began, I asked Maria to reflect on three essential questions. Her responses to those questions are so connected to my heartstring theme of READ ALOUD = JOY! that I’m going to approach this post a little differently. First, I’ll share Maria’s response to each question followed by my own reflection that keeps the joy theme at the center and then share one tweet. Before I share the joy path I’m taking in this post, let me start with a tweet from Maria that reinforced my chosen direction and made my joyful heart go pitter patter:

Ahh, the joy of Maria’s carefully crafted words reminding us to walk along a path that is not riddled with thorns of compliant dissemination but one that is lined with “a well-chosen read aloud surrounded by rich conversations.” And so we continue along a joyful read aloud journey through Maria’s words.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

In the 1980s, I stepped into Estelle Von Zellen’s children’s bookstore housed in the basement of her DeKalb, IL home. The first book I purchased for my classroom was The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. I love reading that book aloud to show children how Don Wood uses shifting perspective and changes in light to enhance Audrey’s cumulative story. Since that day, I’ve been hooked on picture books and have spent my 33-year career reading them aloud to children. I’m fascinated by the artistic process of creating a picture book and believe that if we give children opportunities to notice and discuss books, we can enrich their reading and writing lives. 

I was motivated to write this book to give busy teachers an inside look into picture books and the ways they promote thinking and conversations. For each of the 101 featured books, I share the insights I discovered while reading, rereading, and researching each book so that teachers, librarians, or caregivers can pass those tidbits on to young listeners. 

I’m hoping that Ramped-Up will remind teachers (and their administrators), librarians, and perhaps some parents that read aloud experiences are a necessity for every child. I want this book to nudge them to carve out time every day to read aloud.

READ ALOUD = JOY! Reflection from Mary

Mission accomplished, Maria! Simply acknowledging that we value read aloud is not enough. To view read aloud through the lens of JOY requires us to give it a place of honor in every day as we refuse to allow both real and perceived outside demands to thwart our path forward. When we are so “hooked on picture books” that we can’t let a single day go without reading them, we demonstrate joy through our actions as we keep read aloud at the center of our efforts on a daily basis. It is then and only then that this joy becomes so contagious that it spreads from child to child. Our gift to children of this shared book love will deepen with each new picture book we read aloud that follows where joy continues to grow across the learning year. On page 1 Maria shares an image of her read aloud tally so I was excited to see this tweet below. This visual reference illustrates a constant reminder that we do indeed champion read aloud not just by our words but by making a conscious choice to celebrate read aloud in the company of children day after day. 

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

Read Aloud=JOY. I want teachers to embrace joyful read aloud practices and add their favorite titles to the ones I’ve included in this book. I hope that they view read aloud as one of the many ways they can promote books and reading. I want them to spread the word that read aloud is the mainstay of a vibrant literacy community. During read aloud, I hope teacher notice that it only takes a few open-ended questions or invitations to question, think, or notice in order to surround read aloud with rich conversations.

READ ALOUD = JOY! Reflection from Mary

There’s that phrase I have come to love followed by her desire that teachers will ‘embrace joyful read aloud’. Maria is a master “noticer” of what authors and illustrators do to bring the picture book experience to life and how this artistic process can inform our read aloud choices. Maria shares her thoughtful insights with us through 101 picture book conversations in two-page spreads of joyful possibilities that offer a stepping stone for breathing new life into the read aloud experience. In an age where scripted read alouds suck the very life force out of beautiful books, Maria’s flexible open-ended insights offer a gentle nudge that invite teachers to enter the book experience as a thoughtful read aloud decision-maker. She shows us options to draw from but then respects our choices as we view books from our own insightful lens as we too become master noticers of any picture book.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

We have many children in our classrooms who, as my colleague Janet Mort says, are “unlucky in literacy.” Perhaps they haven’t snuggled on the lap of a caregiver and listened to stories read aloud or they don’t live in a home filled with books and conversations. As educators, we have two paths we can take. We can choose to ignore this fact and march on with our instruction or we can embrace our roles as the “storygivers” and invite children to join us for one book, after another, after another . . .

READ ALOUD = JOY! Reflection from Mary

I doubt that there is a teacher reading these words who can’t name children who have been “unlucky in literacy.” Maria’s response to this question is riddled in joy as she reminds us that the only way we can create a collective spirit of lucky in literacy opportunities is to savor our role as joyful “storygivers” who believe deeply in our responsibility to read aloud to every child. We want to join Maria in taking our rightful place as invitational picture book advocates from the first day of school to the last. I lost count of how many times I read and reread that paragraph where joy oozed from her words with each and every reread. How could any teacher read her words and falter in making a committed decision to choose the path to read aloud joy every time we sit in front of children and joyfully open the covers of a carefully chosen picture book? Imagine how this commitment could spread this lucky in literacy invitational culture that will embrace collective joy across our respective learning spaces. Isn’t this what every child deserves?

 Mary’s Final JOY Reflections

As I pause to reflect on Maria’s repeated message of READ ALOUD = JOY! I challenge each of you to take our shared words in this post, read her book for the first time or yet again, and then soak in the wisdom of every tweet in our #G2Great chat. Then step into your learning spaces with children hopefully surrounding you, open your chosen picture book, and watch read aloud joy reverberate across the room again and again.

Thank you for reminding us of the power of picture books to awaken read aloud magic in each learning day, Maria. We are so honored to stand beside you as picture book joy ambassadors.


Maria’s website:

Maria’s Blog

Ramped Up Read-Aloud (Corwin)

Picture books Mentioned Across Our #G2great Chat

180 Days with Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle

By Fran McVeigh

What a night!  Before the chat began Paul Hankins suggested that our theme song might be Petty’s “Free Falling” and as it ended Colleen Cruz talked about re-reading the stream “…to bask in the glow of @pennykittle and @KellyGToGo.” Either celebration would be so appropriate for that hour in time. Less than ten minutes was all it took for #G2Great to trend in the top “3” due to the wisdom flying through the twittersphere so I knew narrowing down a focus for this post was going to be a challenge as Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle joined the #G2Great chat table for their first time on May 17, 2018 to discuss 180 Days:  Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents.

I first heard about this book last November at NCTE 17 from a panel presentation consisting of Nancy Atwell, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. The chair for the panel was Nancy’s daughter. Her introductions were fabulous. Each one was better than a five paragraph essay –  well constructed and so thought-provoking. I was mesmerized. I was entertained. I was so curious.

In that session Kelly and Penny shared the overview of their collaboration and I knew instantly that this was a book that I could not wait to get my hands on. But it wasn’t  just the content of their presentation.  I was completely awestruck by their behaviors.  When Nancy Atwell went to the podium, Kelly and Penny (seated on stage) took out their notebooks, poised to write and then did write throughout Nancy’s presentation.  I was so amazed by this that I tweeted out a picture that showed them, on stage, writing while Nancy was speaking. Then when it was time for their part of the presentation, it was no surprise that at times, they finished each other’s sentences . . . truly collaborative partners. Here’s the picture and a link to a brief description of their session.

Many may think this is a book only for secondary ELA teachers.


I would recommend this book to EVERY literacy coach, curriculum, and/or department chair in the district as well as every administrator.


Because the first half of the book deals totally with values and beliefs that define the decision-making process for teachers.  Elementary teachers can review it from the lenses of how they prioritize their own literacy instruction, coaching, and observation because the reading and writing standards are similar PK -12. Their work would be parallel to that of the secondary students and teachers. (Not all primary teachers will believe that this book is relevant, so don’t force them to read it!)

As the lead up to this chat, I wrote a blog post on Tuesday with many of the links listed at the end of this post. I also watched Twitter comments during the week, and then Brett Whitmarsh, (@HeinemanPub), posted this podcast the morning of the chat.  It was a read aloud by Kelly and Penny.  

A read aloud of text that I had read twice before.  

A read aloud that I have listened to twice.  

The depth of my knowledge after multiple readings and listenings cannot be measured objectively, but I can tell you that the “story” behind the text and my connections to the text have increased exponentially. I will probably listen once more as I continue composing this piece.  I didn’t annotate the text, I didn’t take copious notes. I really worked on “holding my ideas” across the text with some jots and post it flags as I “spied” on my own reading in hopes of finding the big ideas.

And then came the chat.

The two areas from their book title that continue to fascinate me are both “engagement” and “empowerment”. Do you know high school students? Do they routinely feel engaged? Do they routinely feel empowered? How does this play out in real life with the students that Kelly and Penny have in California and New Hampshire?


How do students get to the “deep thinking that reflects intellectual growth”?  Allowing student choice is a critical element. How much choice? This is most evident in reading where Kelly and Penny propose that 50% of student reading is independent reading where students choose their own reading text. How does the “content” fit into a plan to give students choice?  This entire book is about answering: “How does it all fit in?”

When students are engaged, teachers  and students will be able to dig into deeper levels of understanding. Core beliefs found in their previous books, like Book Love, by Penny and Readicide by Kelly share foundational thinking for their literacy instruction but 180 Days: Two Teachers and their Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents  provides the nuts and bolts about what this really looks and sounds like in classrooms.  Then you will discover their ideas on how to accomplish it. This is simultaneously overlaid with the WHYs so that you can follow the thinking that drove all of Kelly and Penny’s decisions.   

If students have choice, some teachers believe it feels “loosey-goosey” and seems like “free falling” because the teacher cannot plan out the year during back to school workshop days.

Free falling.  

Falling without a net.  

But as  a teacher plans there is a need to keep a laser-like focus on the end goal for the year while also waiting to see the eyes of the students before outlining the year. Within this plan is the flexibility to add/change to meet the interests of students.  An example from this school year was a mini-unit that Kelly created, planned and ultimately shared after the Parkland shooting. (Mass Shooting Unit Link)

Tweets from Kelly and Penny that Support Engagement:

As I read back through the Wakelet, I identified three themes that I felt supported “Engagement” in our chat.  We will be hearing more about engagement in two weeks when we discuss Ellin Keene’s gorgeous new book, Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning, but for now the themes of Joy, Reading and Writing Lives, and Standards and Assessments from Kelly and Penny’s tweets support increased student engagement and helped me organize my thoughts.  Do note that I deliberately left in the number of retweets and likes so that you can see how the #G2Great chat members (and or other friends within the first 12 hours) responded to this wisdom.

Which tweets stand out in your mind?  

Which ones would you like to continue a conversation about?


Empowerment is the second promise from the authors. What does empowerment mean? Again, students who feel they have choice and voice in their daily lives will feel empowered as well as able to reach a higher level of engagement. The two elements are not easily separated. The curriculum allows students to strengthen their reading and writing skills. The daily framework for instruction allows students to be more successful with less “push” and “scaffolding” by the teacher. Knowing that half of their time during the year will be spent on self-selected books is empowering. Respecting students’ lives outside of school is also empowering for students as it reduces external stress in their lives.

The clearer the learning targets, the more efficient and effective the instruction becomes.  The clearer teachers are about their belief systems, the easier they can articulate the relevance to the students. And yet, truly empowering adolescents will require change in the actions and work of students as well as teacher’s roles.  Students will have the power to control their learning within the class. The teacher’s role will be reduced as students take the lead in discussions and book club work.  This is not work for the faint-hearted. Students will resist in the beginning.


Because it is work!

Why does it matter?  

Because the WHY should be guiding all decisions!

Tweets from Kelly and Penny that Support Empowerment:

Specific tweets from Kelly and Penny that supported “Empowerment” seemed to fall into two categories:  Actions and Work of the Students and Teacher’s Roles. When students are empowered, there is no need for “fake” accountability systems. Students meeting in book groups with students across the country were interested in completing their work in order to be a part of the cross-country collaboration. Note particularly what one of Penny’s seniors said as reported in Penny’s first tweet below.

Which tweets stand out in your mind?  

Which ones would you like to continue a conversation about?

The chat revealed that Kelly and Penny originally began with 20 core beliefs and they did whittle it down to 10.  Their schedules provide for daily reading and writing. Kelly (from the book and a live PD session last week) has 10 minutes of reading and writing every day.  Time matters in terms of how it is used each day, as well as across the year and throughout the secondary careers of our students.

Time matters:

Just as I can tell you that a thousand seconds = 16 minutes,

a million seconds = 12 days,

a billion seconds equals 31 years,

and a trillion seconds equals 31,688 years.

Seconds do matter! A sense of urgency is needed!

Being responsive to our students does not mean employing a whip and timer for every time segment in class, but it does require that we pay attention to the balance of time and not waste precious minutes that take away from student application and transfer of reading and writing. At all grade levels.  With all students.

Those are non-negotiables.  The videos in the book are priceless. I remain impressed with the collaborative nature of this work.  The need to have another professional to discuss your ideas with, to plan together, to teach in each other’s classrooms.  How can book clubs meet virtually in California and New Hampshire? What do students (used to sun and sand in California) who may have never seen snow fall from the sky have in common with students from New Hampshire who ride snowmobiles to school in the winter?

What questions remain?

How do YOU fit it all in?

What will YOU do to engage and empower yourself, your peers, and your students?  How do YOU fit it all in?


Additional Resources:

Wakelet (to review all tweets from the chat)

180 Days

Sample Chapter

Heinemann podcast 1

Heinemann podcast 2

Facebook page

Podcast part 1 – Read Aloud

Resourceful – Planning

Travis Crowder Review

Kelly Gallagher website

Penny Kittle website

Who’s Doing the Work: Saying Less So Readers Can Do More in Read Aloud

by Mary Howard


On June 16, 2016, #G2Great launched a four-part series with guest hosts Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, co-authors of a remarkable book, Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse 2016). We began our journey with read-aloud, a topic we’ve spotlighted at #G2Great on three other occasions (see 2/14/16; 3/17/16; 4/21/16

This week, Jan & Kim helped us make a shift to Next Generation Read-Aloud as reflected on page 30: “Read-aloud is a commercial for learning to read. It entices children to lean into the tricky parts of a text for the reward of enjoying its meaning, and this understanding of the relationship between productive effort and its joyful benefits can motivate students during shared reading, guided reading and independent reading.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 12.17.37 PM

In other words, next generation read-aloud asks us open the read-aloud door wider as we invite students to engage in meaningful opportunities to do this productive and joyful work within and beyond the read-aloud experience. Over 1700 tweets and trending on Twitter within minutes and enthusiastic read-aloud suggestions reflected that our #G2Great chatters were ready to make this shift with gusto.

Throughout our chat, Jan and Kim helped us reflect on a question inspired by the cover of their book: How do teachers say less so readers can do more? As I perused enthusiastic tweets of dedicated educators, I discovered seven essential qualities that next generation read-aloud teachers choose to embrace:

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are COMMITTED

We cannot even begin to become next generation read-aloud teachers until we make a time commitment to daily read-aloud. In my Steven Layne blog post, a comment was posted by a teacher describing herself as a read-aloud ‘thief in the night:’ “We have a specific district level mandate that reading aloud to the whole class for more than a few minutes/day is strictly forbidden.” Next generation read-aloud teachers hold tight to read aloud by carving it into daily schedule stone and they let nothing stand in the way – not even ill-informed absurd district mandates.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are SELECTIVE

Within this time commitment, next generation read-aloud teachers celebrate book choice as the inspiration. They thoughtfully select texts, opting for the highest quality varied selections that will cognitively and emotionally connect students in ways that give them a reason to actively engage in deep thinking. Jan and Kim remind us, “Text selection is the first, and potentially the most important, aspect of planning a successful read-aloud experience.” Next generation read-aloud teachers take this challenge seriously, knowing that texts are the spark that can touch the minds and hearts of students and beckon them to do more of the work.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are AWE-INSPIRING

While book choice is critical, next generation read-aloud teachers also know that it is the delivery that can bring that book to life. One does not need to sit through many scripted read-alouds to recognize that JOY is the heartbeat of the read-aloud experience. Cautiously chosen and joyfully delivered texts can impact readers in substantial ways as we celebrate the beauty of the language, meaning, and pictures. When we take time to linger a bit longer in engaging texts, we merge our collective joy and collaboratively savor words, images and messages in delight.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are INTENTIONAL

Commitment, texts and joy form the foundation for next generation read-aloud teachers but they also recognize the value of well-planned instruction and refuse to leave this to chance. Planning is thoughtfully intentional so that they can make the most of every experience. They know books inside out before reading, carefully but selectively placing sticky notes at key points in the text that will afford opportunities to model, pause, reflect, and discuss. They have a clear purpose in mind and know how to breathe life into that purpose in organic and productive ways that will elevate the instructional goal without diminishing enthusiastic engagement. Of course, they have equal respect for providing opportunities to read-aloud for the sheer sake and joy of read-aloud.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are RESPONSIVE

Next generation read aloud teachers respect the planning process, but they have even more respect for students. They are mindful that instructional goals can pull students into the experience or push them out, carefully balancing those goals by keeping students at the forefront. They are willing to ignore sticky note pauses or selected teaching points so that student thinking can rise to the surface. They invite deep thinking by encouraging student voices to lift above their own, viewing turn and talk as a read-aloud staple. They celebrate the ideas readers bring to the read-aloud experience and use them to inform next steps.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are CURIOUS

Each of the essential qualities described thus far are crucial but next generation read-aloud teachers recognize that read-aloud begins and ends with our students in mind. They view kidwatching as an art and use student conversations and reactions in the course of the experience to inspire noticings and wonderings that can elevate heat of learning moments. They seek to understand and use student thinking as a stepping stone to know students at deeper levels. They take advantage of powerful learning to make adjustments on the run to quench their curiosity with actions that are continuously informed by students.

Next Generation Read-Aloud Teachers are COURAGEOUS

Finally, next generation read-aloud teachers are willing to courageously forge new paths to elevate the read-aloud experience. They offer students a steady diet of beautiful texts and strive to bring books and children together on a daily basis. They set the stage to help students understand how books work by designing a learning experience that will be both productive and pleasurable. Above all, they believe in students enough to turn over the reign of responsibility and trust them to do work they know may be messy. They embrace the mess, unfettered by the unknown while encouraging and supporting productive effort along the way. They accept this uncertainty bravely, knowing  payoff will be immeasurable in terms of benefit to students – and that knowledge takes priority over all else.

As I think back on our #G2Great chat with Jan and Kim I am personally inspired to move closer toward becoming a next generation read-aloud teacher. I am excited to embrace the exploratory spirit this shift affords as we enter uncharted territory ripe for thoughtful meanderings in a growth opportunity for students and teachers. As we work to achieve the seven essential qualities, we begin our own gradual release of responsibility toward higher levels of thinking where students do more of the work and read-aloud becomes our teacher

Thank you Jan and Kim for inspiring us to explore what next generation read-aloud has in store for us all! Now let’s get started…

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More inspiring #G2Great Tweets on new generation read-aloud below


In Defense of Read-Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice

by Mary Howard

Quote PRE

My copy of Steven Layne’s remarkable book, In Defense of Read Aloud, is dog-eared with my meticulous notes illustrating a life-long love affair with read-aloud. I’ve savored every eloquent morsel of wisdom through fits of laughter, frustration, wonder and delight. But Steven’s quote above lingered like a warning sign of impending doom, breathing fear into my heart that this critical practice could be abandoned in spite of irrefutable research support ever so expertly interwoven throughout the pages of Steven’s book.

On March 17, 2016, Steven Layne renewed my sense of hope when he was our guest host on #G2Great Twitter chat. His deep belief that we must indeed defend read-aloud quickly spread like a blazing wildfire across the twittersphere and passionate educators responded to his call to arms with promissory tweets that awakened a collective commitment in us all. Our shared enthusiasm for Steven’s words inspired this wonderful read-aloud list.

Spurred by unbridled enthusiasm, I searched Steven’s twitter love notes for signs pointing the way ahead as we join forces to steadfastly defend read aloud. I discovered seven underlying points that can guide our efforts:

Be Resolute

We’ve all been subjected to dismissive comments demeaning the value of read-aloud, so when principal Mindy Reid described read aloud as a ‘non-negotiable’ in her school you could almost hear an appreciative Twitter sigh. Steven’s response reminds us that we desperately need administrators to take a stand so read-aloud will not be relegated to the luck of the draw.


Be Knowledgeable

Teachers who acknowledge the immense instructional power of read-aloud know that choosing a just right today book is essential. Steven reminds us that we must know the book intimately so that we will be privy to those just right moments that will bring this just right today book to life before our most important audience – students.

Master of Text

Be Intentional

Steven emphasizes read-aloud as a rich instructional experience that allows us to model what it means to be a thoughtful reader. This means we must expend time and effort to plan the best possible read-aloud experience that will both captivate and empower our readers. Knowing the book, students and effective literacy instruction affords us the tools that will infuse instructional energy into the experience.


Be Purposeful

Steven expresses his firm belief that the launch of a book is the key to a successful read-aloud. Whether we have chosen a longer book or a brief text, it is the first glorious exposure to the text that invites students into the book and makes them hungry for more. Creating a sense of joyful anticipation is responsive read-aloud at its best.

RA Launch 2

Be Proactive

An effective read-aloud feels like the lap experience without the lap. The closer we can bring our students to that experience, the more they can become part of it (and so they will). Room design is an important consideration as we plan for an effective read-aloud. This may require creative adjustments but it will be well worth the effort.

Seating 2Be Responsive

Motivation is intricately interwoven into the read-aloud experience, making it essential for teachers to consider student interests. We do this by pulling texts across the curriculum as we find both fiction and non fiction texts that will speak to the heart of our readers. Of course, this assumes that we know those readers so that we can make intentional text choices that will awaken passionate listening and engagement.

cross genre

Be Strategic

Our efforts to initiate an effective read-aloud program is never-ending. As our students change and grow over the course of the year, our choices must reflect those changes. This is not about jotting pre-selected titles in a lesson plan book to read dutifully on pre-selected dates, but choosing a book because it is right ‘at this time of year for THIS group of students.’ This flexibility of purpose allows read-aloud to grow with us.

Plan strategically


As I ponder the central messages that are Steven’s gift to each of us, I realize this comes with a responsibility. If we choose to remain silent, read aloud may become an instructional casualty and we will all be complicit in its demise. We can only defend read aloud by embracing it. Every school. Every classroom. Every teacher. Every day. Every child.

Steven reminds us where our ultimate responsibility resides on page 24 of his book. When his middle school student asked him why he turned his classroom upside down to create a read-aloud gathering space, Steven responded, “You’re just that important.”

So I end with a question. Why must we raise our collective voices to defend read aloud to anyone who will listen, regardless of other demands that may vie for attention?

      Because our students are just that important!


More #G2Great Tweets on the power and joy of read-aloud