“Effective read-alouds are complex instructional interactions that require thoughtful preparation and deep understanding of a text. Not all read-alouds are created equal. What matters more than merely reading aloud is the quality of the teacher-student book interaction. Read-alouds must be interactive, during which teachers briefly stop, model their thinking, ask and answer questions, and invite participation from students. In reading aloud, an effective teacher serves as an orchestra conductor, coordinating conversation among students, fostering aesthetic and efferent text responses, and weaving an intricate network of meaning.” (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 4)

Two key aspects of interactive read-alouds are the teacher’s use of questioning to engage students in learning and their strategic modeling of reading through thinking aloud (Fisher, Frey & Akhavan, 2020). Interactive read-alouds bring a classroom together in a shared reading experience for a variety of purposes such as introducing reading strategies, exploring text structures and text features as well as topics and themes (Elliott & Lynch, 2017). Interactive read-alouds also support the development of listening and thinking skills, improve understanding of text structure and vocabulary, and build background knowledge (Fisher et al., 2020). Texts shared as read-alouds become a common language for the readers in the classroom because they create community reading experiences (Elliott & Lynch, 2017).

Teacher-led interactive read-alouds are an appropriate strategy across grade levels and content areas. They can be utilized with a variety of text genres and forms including picture books, short stories, poetry, and newspaper/magazine articles. (International Literacy Association, 2018).

Read-alouds celebrate the joyful and social aspects of reading. They are a powerful instructional strategy that require careful planning and deep knowledge of text. The positive impacts of reading aloud are the result of the interaction between the readers and the text where teachers engage students as active participants by modeling their thinking and/or posing and responding to questions (International Literacy Association, 2018).

Preparing for a teacher-led interactive read-aloud begins with identifying the instructional purpose, selecting texts thoughtfully, and planning for the work readers will do to interact with the text. Fisher, Frey & Akhavan (2020) identify three important considerations when selecting a text for an interactive read-aloud.  The text should:

  • provide an opportunity for teachers to model an aspect of their reading or thinking,
  • align with the content being learned and the students’ social and emotional development and interests, and
  • be a strong piece of literature that will also serve as a mentor text for students’ writing.

Instructional purposes for text selection include:

  • exploring different genres,
  • experiencing the enjoyment of reading,
  • exploring mentor texts,
  • sharing thinking,
  • engaging in discussion, or
  • posing higher-order thinking questions (Elliott & Lynch, 2017).

Depending on the instructional purpose, the selected text, and how the read-aloud is structured, teachers can invite students to interact with the text and with each other, in a multitude of ways:

  • practice a reading or thinking strategy,
    • respond to a question or prompt by turning to talk with a partner or small group or by stopping to jot down or sketch their thinking,
    • pose questions surfaced by the actions, ideas, or themes emerging in the text,
    • make connections between the text and their own lives, other texts, and the world around them,
    • engage with related texts to build background knowledge, explore alternate perspectives, or make comparisons,
    • discuss reactions and responses to the text as a whole class,
    • reflect on or react to the text in small group conversations,
    • use writing or drawing to capture individual responses or to prepare for discussions,
    • use talking, drawing, or writing to document specific text components such as images and illustrations, word choice, character development, or theme.


How to Use the Beyond Words Resources to Support Teacher-Led Interactive Read-Alouds

  • Use the book summaries and links to related materials to identify and explore possible titles for read-alouds that will support your instructional purposes and meet the needs and interests of your classroom community.
  • Individual, small group, and whole class activities provided in the Teacher Resource section offer a variety of options for engaging students with the text before, during, and after the read-aloud. These activities are flexible and can be adapted for your purposes and class configuration.


Elliott, A. & Lynch, M. (2017). Cultivating Readers: Everything you need to take reading instruction

beyond the skills to addressing the will. Pembroke Publishing.

Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Akhavan, N. (2020). This Is Balanced Literacy, Grades K-6. Corwin.

International Literacy Association (2018). The Power and Promise of Read-Alouds and Independent Reading (Links to an external site.).

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