A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School | February 15
Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School
Dear Families, 
Lit World, an organization that is dedicated to the mission of strengthening kids and communities through the power of stories, deems the first Wednesday in February each year as World Read Aloud Day.
At Bernard Zell, this day is known as the JoAnn Wexler Read Aloud Day, in honor of JoAnn Wexler, a beloved teacher and community member who passed away in 2019. Ms. Wex had a passion for children’s literature and reading aloud to her generation of students. During this special day, faculty and staff members visit each other's classrooms to share favorite stories. It’s always exciting for students to see which special teacher will visit their classroom, and it is a true treat for teachers to share the gift of reading aloud with new students. We also celebrate students reading aloud on this day, both to themselves and to each other! Often, as young students grow more capable with independent reading, we have to work double time to continue the important exposure to picture books and read alouds. It is our intention in Lower School to keep the power of reading aloud alive! The benefits are many:
  • increased vocabulary
  • reading comprehension
  • fluency
  • cognition
  • attention span
  • development of background knowledge
  • connection between spoken and written words 

And of course, maybe the most important: enjoyment! In addition to these essential content skills, in programs like Amazeworks, The Nora Project, and our many social-emotional lessons, read alouds are the building blocks of identity formation in children. There is myriad research suggesting that reading aloud reaches its maximum potency when it includes a balance of fiction and non-fiction, exposing children to text structures and literacy elements they will at one point need to command on their own. In order to grow the most competent and successful readers, we need to give them opportunities to listen and reflect on a wide range of genres. 
I continue to be inspired to share with our community how much we value the practice of reading aloud, in hopes of encouraging your family to actively participate in your children’s reading growth and the enjoyment that shared reading brings! This article suggests ideas for impactful reading aloud at home (or at school). And here you can listen to one of our all time favorite authors, Kate DiCamillo, share about her formative grade school experience with read alouds.
Your kids aren’t too old for picture books and neither are you!
Karen Leavitt,
Head of Lower School

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