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Read Alouds and Reading Comprehension

Elizabeth M. Troup
Franciscan University of Steubenville


Reading comprehension is undoubtedly a crucial aspect of literacy. According to the

National Reading Panel, reading comprehension is described as “...intentional thinking during

which meaning is constructed through interactions between the text and reader…” (Reutzel &

Cooter, 2012, p. 259). Students must not simply read text, but must also be able to draw

meaning from it and analyze it. Teachers must guide their students in reading comprehension

through instruction methods. One good method is through the use of read-alouds. Read-alouds

involve reading text out loud to students, which also includes prompting questions to the class

about the text, thus fostering thinking about the text in this classroom, which leads to reading

comprehension. Through multiple studies, it has been suggested that read-alouds are an effective

method of aiding in reading comprehension. (Pantaleo, 2007; Toth, 2013; Wiseman, 2011;

Manak, 2011; Pentimonti & Justice, 2009; Hudson & Browder 2012). Using read-alouds,

teachers can foster a deepening in reading comprehension in the classroom.


Reading comprehension is an essential tool that students should use throughout school

and for the rest of their life. In school, students may simply read their books on their own,

whether at home or through silent reading. Additionally, teachers may read to the students, but

they do not discuss the text with the students. When I was first introduced to the concept of

read-alouds, I thought that it was an excellent method for supporting reading comprehension. I

wanted to further research this in my paper. My research question is: Can read-alouds help

improve reading comprehension, and if so, are they more helpful than other reading methods?

I plan to implement my research by spending time in a classroom and teaching a read-

aloud to the students, assess them, and then read another book to them without the read-aloud

component, and then assess them. My findings will conclude which reading method was more

beneficial to the students. My research is inspired by the theorist Vygotsky because his theory

focused on students learning through social interaction. During my research, the students will

interact with each other by discussing the book and the questions I prompt them with one


I hypothesize that my findings will conclude that read-alouds are a better method for

teaching reading comprehension than simply reading to the students. Through the use of a read-

aloud, questions are prompted to the students and their learning is reinforced by discussing the

events in the book, which will help the students remember when they are assessed.

Review of Literature

How can interthinking read alouds improve student literacy? Sylvia Pantaleo (2007)

conducted a study in a Canadian first grade classroom involving interactive think alouds in small

groups in addition to entire class think-alouds. The purpose of this study was to investigate

children’s comprehension and response to picture books, specifically in the group setting of read

alouds. The participants of this study were 19 first grade students attending a low-income school

in British Columbia, Canada. During the nine-week study, the researcher read eight picture

books to the children. For the read aloud sessions, the children were split into 3 or 4 person

groups (which changed with each book). The small group read aloud sessions were held once a

week lasting about 25 minutes each. After the small group sessions, the participants had a whole-

class read aloud, during which the class’s first grade teacher took notes. She recorded students’

facial expressions, body language, and comments. She also audio-recorded all of the read aloud

sessions. Following the whole class read aloud, students visually expressed their reactions to the

picture books. The researcher’s findings concluded that the group read alouds had aided the

children’s language and literacy development. In the discussions, the children all influenced

each other with their comments, which affected the group as a whole. During the study, the

researcher learned more about how first graders think and speak, as well as learning more about

herself as an educator.

The researcher conducted a study that was beneficial to the class she visited. In the

beginning of the article, she discussed Vygotsky and his social theory. Vygotsky inspired the

study because the group think aloud encouraged social interaction by means of students talking

to each other in addition to the researcher asking questions. This article included excerpts from

the transcriptions of the group read alouds. Reading about the students’ natural responses to the

read alouds provided insight for the conversations. Prompting questions for the students helped

ensure that the read aloud conversations taught the students what they needed to know about the

picture books. The author emphasized how important this was. This article is relevant to the

topic of think-alouds because it demonstrates the use of this method in the classroom, and how it

is beneficial to the students. This article did not provide any concrete statistics about the

progress of the students, and it did not describe some of the facial expressions or body language

from the students. Other than providing the transcript from the conversation, a clearer picture

could have been provided in this article. For improvement, the author could provide students’

progress from their read-alouds in addition to more of the students’ reactions. Through her

research, Pantaleo suggests that read-alouds are a helpful method to aid students in language


Interactive read alouds can aid students’ language development in many ways. Angela

Wiseman (2010), along with two other researchers, participated in a case study in a kindergarten

classroom consisting of 21 children. The purpose of this research was to investigate how

interactive read-alouds could help support the students’ learning in this kindergarten classroom.

The methods of this study included a daily read aloud with the entire class, lasting 25 to 45

minutes. The research team came four times a week to observe, take notes, and tape-record these

read-alouds. By the end of the study, there were 54 audio-taped and transcribed read-alouds. In

addition to the tapes, the researchers also had student journals and informal interviews with the

teachers and the students. At the beginning of the year, the teacher always introduced the book

in the same manner and prompted questions from the students. The author found that as the year

progressed, students began asking about the books on their own without the prompting of the

teacher. After collecting all the data, the author coded it and found four major categories of

teacher response which were as follows: confirmation, modeling, extending ideas, and building

meaning. Additionally, the author concluded that read-alouds help promote a great classroom

community as well as assisting in children’s reading development.

Wiseman went in detail in regards to her study, and she had many sources. In her article,

the author discussed Rosenblatt’s transactional approach, and how the theory relates to read-

alouds. She suggests that there is a relationship between the child and the book, and through

read-alouds, children gain the knowledge from the book. When students reflect on the texts, they

can draw experiences from their own lives and relating text to self. Through reading, they learn

more about themselves and the world around them. Sometimes this can be more easily prompted

through read-alouds. The author had several methods of collecting data during her study. She

worked with her team as they took notes and recorded the read aloud sessions as well as

transcribing them, which assisted in recording results. The teacher of the participating class

carefully chose which books to read to them, taking into consideration student needs when

thoughtfully selecting texts to use. The author did mention having collected the students journals,

but did not discuss the writings found in them. Moreover, the author describes the children

writing responses in their journals, but as kindergartners, their responses would be very short,

since their writing skills would be very limited. The way this situation was described in the

article seems as though this exercise would be better suited for higher grade levels. This study

was pertinent because it showed how read alouds impact children’s literacy development.

Suggestions for future research would be to explore additional ways of collecting children’s

responses to the stories, such as drawing a picture. Wiseman’s data collection and insight

suggests that read alouds are an excellent method of developing children’s literacy skills in

addition to fostering a classroom community of students learning together.

In her article, Jennifer Manak (2011) describes the effects of interactive read-alouds on

the writing of third graders during their writing workshop. This study investigated the

intertextual connections between interactive read-alouds at the beginning of writing workshop

and during writing workshop. The participants in this study were a class of 14 third graders from

a public charter school. During the course of over six months, the researcher observed 33

writing workshops and collected multiple sources of data including field notes, transcriptions,

interviews, and teacher and student artifacts. She took over 150 pages of detailed field notes.

Additionally, she interviewed each student informally about their writing once a week. The

author then analyzed her data using different kinds of coding: opening, axial, and selective. She

also used Strauss’ constant comparative method. When the students read mentor texts, they

learned to read like a writer. The teacher prompted student responses and through these lessons,

the students learned more about how authors craft their writing and when the students themselves

wrote, they learned to write like a reader. When the students wrote in their journals, they wrote

from the teacher’s perspective and wrote keeping their readers in mind. The researcher found

that dialogic interactions, when students spoke to each other during read-alouds and when the

teacher guided the conversation, aided in developing the students’ literacy understanding as well

as influenced their writing.

This article was very clear and concise. The author explicitly stated her goals and her

study was simple to comprehend. It was very informative how this article related read-alouds to

improving students’ writing, and seeing the influence on their writing was very informative. The

researcher was also very dedicated, as the study lasted over six months and she not only took

notes and observed, but also interviewed each of the students every week. The researcher stated

her data sources and comparative method, but did not describe them, which would have been

helpful in order to understand her methodology. Also, the researcher stated what happened in

the classroom, but there was not much of an insight into her studies. There was no sample of any

of her transcriptions or student interviews. This article shows how read-alouds can assist in

students’ writing. Read alouds are not just a tool for reading comprehension, but also for writing

and more. For improvement, this research could provide more concrete examples of her

research, such as a sample of one of the in-class read alouds or one of the interviews.

In this article, three researchers named Mims, Hudson, and Browder (2012) conducted a

study involving the use of read-alouds for students with moderate to severe developmental

disabilities. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of listening comprehension

during read-alouds of grade-level biographies for middle school students with moderate to severe

developmental disabilities. This intervention needed students filling very specific criteria, and

the interventionist was able to find four participating students who fit this criteria. These

students were between the ages of 12 and 14 and had autism and intellectual disabilities. One of

the students used spoken words to communicate, but the others could only point to pictures and

objects. Additionally, three of the four students could read some sight words, but one had no

word recognition skills. Each of these students received intervention in the mornings three times

a week for about twenty minutes a day. The five biographies used for this intervention were

taken from two 6th grade literature textbooks, and the interventionist summarized the text in

order to adapt them for nonreaders by pairing keywords with symbols and using controlled

vocabulary. For each biography, the interventionist prepared 11 questions, 8 of which were

“wh” questions: who, what, when, where, and why. The remaining 3 were sequence questions:

which came first, next, and last. The results found that out of the 156 questions asked, Wanda

answered 64% correctly, Nathan 47%, John 53%, and Gary 75%. These least intrusive prompts

seemed to be effective for these students, and their classroom teacher considered using this

system in her classroom. For all of the students, by the end there was an increase in unprompted


This article provided a very effective intervention for nonreaders, which was very helpful

for these students with intellectual disabilities. The least intrusive prompts were questions that

all students could benefit from for reading comprehension. This article also provided charts

comparing the differences of the four students, and it provided a chart including the

comprehension questions students were asked during the intervention. It was a very well

thought-out study, and there were only four students so each case could be analyzed in detail.

This article is relevant because it uses read-alouds to aid in comprehension. A suggestion for

future research could be the teacher implementing this particular intervention in the classroom.

For this study, an interventionist worked individually with the students, but the teacher

specifically did not conduct it. Overall, this research suggests that read-alouds can be tailored

for listening comprehension for students who cannot read, but it can still help them comprehend

the text.


For my study, I was in a first grade classroom in an urban area of Ohio. There were eight

children in all. I chose this age group because from my research, the studies were often

conducted in an early childhood classroom. Additionally, I work with these children once a

week. I conducted my research by coming to the class and having a read-aloud activity with the

students and then afterward handing out a graphic organizer for the students to write one

sentence about the events from the beginning, middle, and end of the book. The next week, I

came in with a different book and read it to them, however this time I did not prompt questions

or conversation with them. Afterward, I gave them the same graphic organizer to fill out with

the beginning, middle, and end section.

For the first week, I had the children sit on the carpet while I showed them the book Zoe

Fleefenbacher’s Hair Goes to School. I showed them the title and asked them questions that

would lead them to make predictions. As I read the book to them, I paused at different parts and

asked them questions pertaining to vocabulary, feelings about the characters, and prompted

discussions during the book. After the book was over, I asked the students a couple of questions,

including the events that occurred at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. After that, I

had all the students return to their seats and I gave them a graphic organizer to fill out. They

wrote one sentence each for the beginning, middle, and end of the book. They also drew pictures

on their organizers when they finished the sentences. When they finished, I collected the graphic


The next week I returned to the class and read them a new book called Lulu the Big Little

Chick. Just as last time, they all sat at the carpet while I read to them. However this time, I did

not have the same read aloud activity. Instead of pausing and prompting questions and

discussion, I read the entire story through without pausing. Even after reading, I did not discuss

the events. I handed out the graphic organizers with the beginning, middle, and end sections and

the students filled those out just as the previous week. The students filled those out and I

collected them.


The students are only first graders, so I could not glean as much evidence from the

graphic organizers. The students had something written for every section, however one

difference I did notice was that with the second read-aloud without the commentary, the students

had forgotten what happened in the middle and end of the book. They were saying “I forgot

what happened!” since we did not have a class discussion the second time. Upon comparing the

first set of graphic organizers to the next one, there was not a stark difference since the students

used short, simple sentences both times in addition to pictures. They also all contained events

from the text. Another thing I noticed was that from the graphic organizers from the first read

aloud, many students included sentences pertaining to things we discussed as a class and

emphasized, so those points stuck with them. For the second set of graphic organizers, the

sentences the students wrote varied depending on details that they had gleaned from the text.

Additionally, after I completed the second portion of my study, I asked my cooperating teacher

her opinion on read alouds, and which method she preferred. She said she definitely preferred

the method of reading to the children while pausing to discuss key points in the text. However,

she did make the point that sometimes one can pause too many times. She stated that for SFA

reading, they have the teachers pause many times, even sometimes too many times, during read-

alouds. I also asked the students which they preferred, reading while talking about the book or

simply reading it? The students told me that they preferred my first read, when we all had a class

discussion about it.

My research question is answered in a way, but not as blatantly as I would have liked.

Being able to measure the reading comprehension was not as easy because I gave them a graphic

organizer that could not be answered in very much detail because of the students’ age. There

was not much of a difference between the two organizers, but what I did find from my personal

experience and from the teachers’ and students’ input, read-alouds are a better method of

improving reading comprehension than other methods.


Since I have learned that read-alouds are a preferred activity for reading comprehension, I

will keep that in mind for the future, especially for when I teach. There were definitely some

limitations to my study. One is that I only conducted my study in one class, and at that there

were only 8 students. Additionally, when I assessed the students, my only way of determining

reading comprehension was the graphic organizer, and it was very similar to both classroom

studies, so my results were not very different. Also, since I myself conducted the study, I was

not able to take notes on every second of the study. I wish I would have been able to record the

entire read-aloud. For improving, I would find another way to assess the students, perhaps

through assessing them orally and then writing down their responses. I would also like to

involve more teachers and more classrooms. Moreover, I would interview more teachers about

their preferred methods. My recommendations for this field of study are to practice read-alouds

in the classroom, but keep in mind that there should be a balance of pauses, to definitely have

some during reading but not too many.


Pantaleo, S. (2007). Interthinking: Young children using language to think collectively during

interactive read-alouds. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6), 439-447.

DOI: 10.1007/s10643-007-0154-y

Toth, A. (2013). Not just for after lunch: Accelerating vocabulary growth during read-aloud. The

Reading Teacher, 67(3), 203-207.


Wiseman, A.(2011). Interactive read alouds: Teachers and students constructing knowledge and

literacy together. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38, 431-438.

DOI 10.1007/s10643-010-0426-9

Manak, J. (2011). The social construction of intertextuality and literary understanding: The

impact of interactive read-alouds on the writing of third graders during writing workshop.

Reading Research Quarterly, 46(4), 309-311.

Pentimonti, J.M. & Justice, L.M. (2009). Teacher’s use of scaffolding strategies during read

alouds in the preschool classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37, 241-248.

DOI 10.1007/s10643-009-0348-6

Mims, P.J., Hudson, M.E., & Browder, D.M. (2012). Using read alouds of grade-level

biographies and systematic prompting to promote comprehension for students with

moderate and severe developmental disabilities. Focus on Autism and Other

Developmental Disabilities. 27(2) 67-80.

DOI: 10.1177/1088357612446859

Reutzel, D., & Cooter, R. (2012). Teaching children to read: The teacher makes the difference

(6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.


1. I asked my cooperating teacher the question: Do you think read-alouds are a better

method for reading comprehension instead of a different method?

2. I asked my cooperating students the question: Which did you like better? Last week when

I read you the book and then we talked about it or this week when I just read you the

book and we didn’t talk about it at all?

A graphic organizer was used for assessment and the completed graphic organizers will be

handed in with the hard copy of the paper.