Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman

The 2023-2024 Read Across America year-long read-a-thon is underway! Each school year, the National Education Association (NEA) publishes a calendar of books that can be read by or to students in elementary, middle, and high school to encourage “reading across America.”  

When students read, it promotes continued growth of the Big 5 reading skills: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, reading fluency, and reading comprehension (Rababah, 2017). Those skills are also fostered by reading to students using proven read aloud strategies (e.g., Hwang et al., 2023; Lee & Yoon, 2017).  

One of the most effective types of read-alouds is interactive; students are read a story aloud and then are prompted to discuss information in the text (Wright, 2019). 

The Read Across America calendar of books contains a variety of books that can be used for read-alouds. The March 2024 Read Across America theme is Celebrate Diversity and the book is A Crown for Corina. Watch the read-aloud of A Crown for Corina in the YouTube video below. You can customize read-alouds to focus on certain Big 5 skills by using the strategies in the table below. Try them out as you read A Crown for Corina to your students or by pausing the video at key junctures and demonstrating the strategies to your students. 

Look below at the read-aloud strategies you can use to help students improve their Big 5 skills. 

Phonemic Awareness 

(Ehri, 2020a) 

Just by reading aloud, teachers are bombarding students’ brains with the sounds in the words in our language. Knowledge of sounds in words is a component of phonemic awareness, which is a foundation for building letter-sound association skills.  

(Ehri, 2020b) 

Children enjoy looking at illustrations in books as the read aloud occurs. When words are encountered that contain letter-sound associations familiar to the children, the teacher can have the students decode the word and associate that word with the picture, if possible. This activity supports orthographic mapping, which is a surefire way to help children retain knowledge of printed words and read those words quickly.  

(McClure & Fullerton, 2017) 

As students provide thoughts on what may be covered in the book or what might happen next, teachers can highlight, expound upon, and extend vocabulary used in the book and by students. 
Reading Fluency 

(Johnston, 2015) 

When teachers read books aloud, students hear a model of fluent reading. A notable part of this experience is students hearing accurate pronunciations of known and new words.  
Reading Comprehension (McClure & Fullerton, 2017)  Teachers should direct students to use information on the book cover (e.g., title, pictures/illustrations) to anticipate the focus of the book. In addition, students should be taught about text evidence to help them find facts and the meaning of the messages in the book. 

Check out the 2023-2024 NEA Read Across America calendar of books like Moonwalking (middle grades) and Well, That Was Unexpected (young adults) for other read-aloud options. Read-alouds are great for older students too. For example, they can enhance students’ oral language skills and help them learn how and when to employ specific reading strategies (Stoezel & Shedrow, 2021). Another consideration is that older students may not be reading on grade level due to limited foundational reading skills, so read-alouds facilitate their access to grade-level content. 

It’s important to both allow students to practice reading to employ their knowledge of the Big 5, but also to continue to grow those skills in other ways such as through read-alouds. If you are looking for another way to support your students’ growth of foundational reading skills, check out WORD Force. It is a free, early literacy game-based learning program designed to support growth of foundational reading skills and subskills.  Also check out this blog which contains seven fun and simple tips for bolstering early literacy skills via classroom activities.

WORD Force


Ehri, L. (2020a). The National Reading Panel report: A summary of its findings. The Reading League Journal, 1(3), 4-10. 

Ehri, L.C. (2020b). The science of learning to read words: A case for systematic phonics instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S45-S60.  

Hwang, H., Orcutt, E., Reno, E.A., Kim, J., Harsch, R.M., McMaster, K.L., Kendeou, P.P., & Slater, S. (2023). Making the most of read-alouds to support primary-grade students’ inference-making. The Reading Teacher, 77(3). 

Johnston, V. (2015). The power of the read aloud in the age of the common core. The Open Commission Journal, 9(Suppl 1: M5), 34-38. 

Lee, J., & Yoon, S. Y. (2017). The effects of repeated reading on reading fluency for students with reading disabilities: A meta-analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50(2), 213-224. 

McClure, E.L., & Fullerton, S.K. (2017). Instructional interactions: Supporting students’ reading development through interactive-read alouds of informational text. 

Rababah, E. (2017). The impact of using reading storybooks and writing journal activities on print and phonemic awareness of Jordanian kindergarten children. Journal of Educational and Psychological Studies, 11(4), 736-748. 

Wright, T.S. (2019). Reading to learn from the start: The power of interactive read-alouds. American Educator, 

Free Literacy Activities for K-2nd Grade Students

With WORD Force, you’ll energize independent practice time. Throughout the program’s 15 games, your students will enjoy a silly “save-the-world” storyline while receiving consistent, timely feedback on their budding early literacy skills.

Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman

Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman is the Vice President of Early Literacy Impact at EVERFI. In her role she enjoys collaborating with colleagues across units as well as external stakeholders on early literacy projects as a subject matter expert. Dr. Coleman’s career focus on spoken language and literacy has been infused in her work in public and private schools, public and private universities, and a not-for-profit association. She is a board member of Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia and Learning Disabilities Association of America.