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New Read-Aloud Strategies Transform Story Time

Reading a picture book aloud from her armchair, 20 children gathered on the rug at her feet, kindergarten teacher Jamie Landahl is carrying on a practice that’s been a cornerstone of early-literacy instruction for decades. But if you listen closely, you’ll see that this is not the read-aloud of your childhood. Something new and very different is going on here.

What’s happening in Ms. Landahl’s classroom at Ruby Duncan Elementary School reflects a major shift in reading instruction brought about by the Common Core State Standards. In place in more than 40 states, the standards expect children to read text carefully and be able to cite evidence from it to back up their interpretations. That approach requires teachers to pose “text-dependent” questions—those that can be answered only with a detailed understanding of the material, rather than from students’ own experience. And it’s not just for complex high school books; it’s increasingly being used in reading stories aloud to young children.