Over this week, I’ll be sharing 5 posts-all of them focused on ideas for online learning with your BMLs. Since some teachers have limited access to their students and learning materials at this time, these ideas are quick-win strategies you can implement right away. This is blog post #2 out of 5. You can find the others in previous posts.

Regardless of the age of your students, it’s probably safe to say they like being read to. There’s just something magical about picturing the characters and story setting and watching the plot play out, step-by-step. From a language acquisition standpoint, stories allow students to actively listen and process information, build meaning, understand cause-and-effect and develop vocabulary. These are pretty powerful things! I should also mention that vocabulary-building is one of the single-most valuable benefits to students. A large vocabulary has been shown to be a great predictor of academic success.

Reading is so powerful that memories of stories, plots and characters can last a lifetime. They elicit strong emotions and can ignite a real spark for reading. During this difficult time in our history, reading good books can offer some escapism since they hold the power to add colour to what might be perceived as grey days in some of your students’ memories.

To get started, choose a book that’s likely to capture your learners’ interest but ensure that it’s still got some ‘meat and bones’ to generate a good discussion. Be sure the theme is a good fit for the students and your particular learning context.

If you don’t have access to any storybooks right now, there are so many offerings (cheap or free) that you can access online during this pandemic. Here’s just a few:  

  • Be sure to check your local library. Many offer subscriptions to ebooks and provide you with information about content, reading levels and themes within the books. Usually, all you need is a library card to access their collections.
  • Kindle Books: If you’re working with older students and/or secondary students, you might want to select a chapter book for daily readings. Kindle books are quite reasonably-priced with an average cost around $3.99 USD. There’s literally millions to choose from but here is a list of the most popular Kindle books for young adults. **Please note: you might also want to search for books that represent diverse authors and themes based on the backgrounds of your students and what will be of interest (and have relevance) for them. Here is another ‘most popular’ list of kindle books that are from a multicultural perspective:

Most Popular Kindle Books for Young Adults: https://amzn.to/3cFWUvd

Most Popular, Diverse/Multicultural Kindle Books: https://amzn.to/3bBXskC

  • Storyline Online: This is a great site with videos of celebrities reading children’s books. It’s complete with audio effects and stunning visuals of the books. It’s mainly targeted to young learners from K-Grade 2 (Reception – Year 3). https://www.storylineonline.net/
  • Barnes & Noble: This is a great (American) Youtube channel from the famous New York bookstore. They offer read alouds by authors but those are mainly for young children. https://www.youtube.com/barnesandnoble
  • Magic Keys: Although a bit out-dated and simplistic, Magic Keys provides short stories you can read aloud for young children, older children and young adults. The books also offer some pictures. http://www.magickeys.com/books/#ya
  • Big Universe: This is a literacy solution for K-12 that provides free access to those affected by covid-19. It’s a subscription/membership service under normal conditions. It provides more than 17,000 leveled books from more than 40 publishers, including subject-related topics (e.g. science, social studies, etc.). https://start.k12.com/national.html?st=big-universe
  • Storybooks Canada: promotes bilingual and multilingual maintenance through 40 stories offered in different languages. Story levels are for beginning readers to approximately grade 3/year 4. Learners can access the text in their language, along with pictures and audio recordings. www.storybookscanada.ca

Reading stories can seem like a simple solution to engagement and motivation but don’t forget that it’s still a complex language task that will naturally create many benefits for students’ language development and learning. These are all very good reasons to start reading to your students today but probably the very best is that your students will be begging you not to put the book away!

Alison Schofield is an educator, consultant and co-founder of the Centre for Educators of BMLs. She loves sharing her expertise with teachers around the world. She’s especially passionate about literacy and learning approaches with BMLs. If you have any questions about this article or even an idea for an article, feel free to reach Alison at: alison@educatorsofbmls.com

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