Read Alouds Increase Vocabulary

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

“Children can learn to read easily without being taught, by being read to, by playing games with words, and by falling head over heels in love with books.” —Mem Fox

My students’ favorite part of the day is “read aloud.” We do it every day for about 15 – 20 minutes after recess. I have to set a timer because we would just keep going. Our favorites this year? Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Richard and Florence Atwater), The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda (Tom Angleberger), Out of My Mind (Sharon M. Draper), Home of the Brave (Katherine Applegate), Love That Dog (Sharon Creech), Hate the Cat (Sharon Creech), and the list continues. I think our favorite book was always the one we were reading. Usually no one asked what was next until our current one was done.

What does research say about the benefits of reading aloud to children?

Many times children from lower socioeconomic status families have a more limited vocabulary when they begin school. Because they are struggling readers, they are not reading text that will help them gain new vocabulary. A poor reader reads easier books and fewer books, causing vocabulary to grow at a slower rate.

Can reading aloud provide a benefit for these students? Many studies have determined that reading aloud to students increases vocabulary. A study done by Warwick Elley found vocabulary gains can more than double when a teacher explains words from the text they are reading. This important study is often referenced in many of the other studies conducted on read alouds. Elley states in his notes that for children to gain new word meaning from context requires persistent attention to the meaning of the stories (Elley 1989).

It is important to plan this vocabulary learning. Choose appropriate books and then target words to teach as the books are read aloud. These should be words that are unfamiliar to the children. An appropriate number of words to choose from a picture book (or from a chapter) is about six.

Do you have a favorite read aloud? What vocabulary gems are hiding within?



  1. I totally agree! I read aloud to my class daily. One of my favorite read-alouds is “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi. This book is not only rich in vocabulary, but it also is the kind of book that most students would not pick up on their own (the title and the cover does not do it justice). Avi ends most chapters with a cliffhanger, and my students always beg me to read more!

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