Read Alouds as “Untaught Stories”

I’ve been spending some time going through all my documents that I have saved on my computer. There comes a time when you have to just trash some things in order to make room for new stuff. What surprised me were how many things I came across that made me want to share an idea. I just couldn’t bring myself to press that delete button until I wrote the thoughts somewhere else. I decided that each time I came across something of value, I’d blog about it so that I, and my readers, could reflect on it one more time before I press that button. Today’s idea is from a page where I had taken notes on an article I read.

In an article by Shari Frost in Choice Literacy a while back, Shari wrote about how distressed she was by the fact that many primary teachers were using their read aloud books for the purpose of strategy teaching and not just for the pleasure of enjoying a good story. Shari paraphrased another author (Patricia Cooper’s Language Arts article) who felt the same way. I found the quote valuable enough to copy down and save.

“Cooper believes that the ‘untaught story’ plays an important role in the literacy development of children. It supports the development of their imagination, increases their vocabulary, helps them develop a sense of story, builds the foundation for critical thinking, and teaches children to love books. These benefits can be jeopardized if every read aloud is attached to a comprehension lesson.”

Take a moment to ask yourself:

  1. How often do I use a picture book just for sheer enjoyment?
  2. Am I overusing what I know about strategy teaching by always thinking that my read aloud book has to have a strategy lesson attached?
  3. What messages am I sending to children about why we read books?
  4. Am I doing all I can to develop a love of books and stories with my students?
  5. Can I name three books that my students love to hear again and again just because they love them so much?

Teachers shouldn’t have to defend WHY they are reading aloud great books to their students. We all know the benefits, don’t we?





  1. Fountas and Pinnell taught me, in their book Teaching for Comprehension and Fluency, that the first reading of a great book should ALWAYS be for enjoyment. Not that we would not plan for purposeful places for student talk, but to use a first read with explicit strategy lessons is sometimes doing more harm than good if our goal is to develop passionate readers. To teach that strategy lesson, we can pull a book back out for another read or to just draw attention to a specific part. The students already have the meaning under their belt, so they can now focus on the strategies it took them to get there. Thank you for this most important lesson! 🙂

  2. This is why I love the #classroombookaday idea. I read at least one picture book a day just because. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes, we are sad together. Often we talk and react. The sharing of stories together builds our reading community. We read books because they speak to us and we speak back to them!

  3. Instead of making the teaching explicit. I have let the read aloud time be much more of an undercover kind of learning. Yes, I let them just listen and put on a show! Lately, the only teaching like thing I have been doing is putting the illustration of the chapter book frozen under the document camera as I am reading about the part. The kids, love this. There isn’t always a picture up on the screen. They still have to learn to visualize. But, I find it leaves just the right amount of visual engagement to keep those on the fringe in the game.

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