Read Aloud, Read Along, Read Appropriately to Foster Flexible Readers

By: Robin Fogarty


Based on the framework of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), there are three types of reading that dictate student proficiency: narratives (for literary experiences), informational reading (for facts, data, and a knowledge base), and procedural reading (for following directions and understanding technical works).

Further suggested in this model are four levels of reading: initial understanding, interpretation, developing a personal response, and evaluating. To help students become efficient and flexible readers moving through the different levels of proficiency, the three strategies of read aloud, read along, and read appropriately play different roles.

Reading aloud gives students the opportunity to hear the sound and rhythm of the language. As the teacher thinks aloud about what he or she is reading, the students begin to understand the connections between the words on the page and what they mean. When students read orally, they, too, can hear the words as they process them.

In the read along strategy, teachers provide needed word prompts and cues, as well as fluency in the reading act. As students follow along, their pacing is propelled by the fluency of the reader. The read along activity is a reading exercise for the classroom and for the home. Parents/guardians and older siblings can read orally as the student reads along.

Surprisingly, the fluent reader can read along at quite a brisk pace,and the student somehow seems to keep up, carried along by the flow of the oral reading. (When read-alongs arc employed as a strategy for fluency, do not point to the words, but rather place a paper marker beneath the line being read).

The read appropriately strategy promotes the policy of reading material at an appropriate instructional level for greatest individual gains. The adage "different strokes for different folks" applies well here. Because readers respond differently to the reading and writing process, their skill level is critical to their developmental progress. Read aloud, read along, and read appropriately are a triad of strategies that effectively achieve the results teachers want.

Discuss the NAEP framework for types of reading and levels of comprehension to inform students of the various types of reading. In this way, teachers expose learners to the idea of flexible reading for different purposes. Included in the types of reading are narratives for literary experiences, informative texts for Information gathering, and procedural steps for following directions. Demonstrate each type. Then discuss or think about the levels of reading comprehension: initial understanding, interpretation, personal response, and evaluation. Develop a rubric with students that helps them begin to assess their own levels of understanding about their reading (see figure below). Discuss the differences and make them aware of the ultimate goal — achieving a deep understanding of the reading.

Read aloud, read along, and read appropriately strategies involve three phases of reading instruction.

Read Aloud

Story Time: Using juvenile literature books to highlight the idea of being literate is a powerful strategy for youngsters to use as they read to younger students. Several of the best books include Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco, and The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

Readers' Theater: This read aloud approach calls on a group of students to take on roles to read, as they perform a dramatic reading. It creates a natural flow to reading aloud, set apart from the usual round robin reading. In this case, students read when their roles appear in the text. It seems to be highly motivating and engaging to students of various ages.

NarrativeRetellsMakes sense
of text
Relates toCritiques
Uses analogiesReads critically
ProceduralRepeatsRephrasesAdaptsEdits Essence

Read Along

Echo Reading: When students read side by side and echo read, they basically read in tandem. This affords students the advantage of seeing, saying, and hearing the words and the sound of the language as they read.

Partner Reading: By alternating paragraphs, sections. or pages, students have a companion reader to spark their read-alongs.

Read Appropriately

The Rule of Five: When students count (on their fingers) five unknown words from one page, the book is probably too difficult. It is called "the rule of five." but it is a simple, folksy assessment for finding an appropriate level book.

Fogarty, R.J. (2007). Literacy matters: Strategies every teacher can use. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Used with permission from Corwin Press.