Way back in the last century, in those heady (and I mean that literally), hippie days of the 1970’s, I was schoolchild.  And a damn good one if I do say so myself.  Ok, I had a little difficulty with the whole “borrowing” part of subtraction, but I blame that on inadequate instruction.  For the most part, I paid attention, did my assignments, and played nicely with others.  And I loved, loved, loved to read.

By the time second grade rolled around, I was competently reading several grade levels above my age.  The material we read in class offered me no challenge, but I didn’t mind.  A good story is a good story, at whatever level it is written.  What gave me trouble, though, was the heinous group-education procedure known as round-robin reading.

I’m sure you remember this.  Everyone in the class has a copy of the book in front of them.  Everyone in the class takes a turn reading a paragraph or a page.  Out loud.  Not everyone in the class reads well.  Actually, few do.  If you are a good reader, listening to a mediocre reader utter their paragraph in a steady monotone is painful.  Listening to a poor reader grasp and claw their way through the text, requiring prompting and decoding assistance from the teacher for every other word, is tortuous. 

I can only imagine how the child who doesn’t read well feels, struggling that way in public, well aware of the pressure of the stultified good readers who have long since abandoned the pretense of following along and have now finished the book.

Fast forward to the 21st century and consider my daughter.  Little Bit is in the second grade.  She loves to read, and does so competently, several grade levels above her age.  And yes, she too is tortured by this heinous procedure.  In fact, she spent much of our dinner together this evening lamenting the fact that few kids in her class read well enough to be happily listened to. 

Elder daughter Tigger had the exact same complaint a few years ago.  Fortunately, she’s in sixth grade now and her teachers have found other methods of torturing students, like making girls and boys work together, even when they don’t like each other.  Even when they liked each other last week, but now definitely do not.  And especially when they liked each other the year before, but they broke up.  Eeew.

There’s no way around it, I guess.  If the teacher tells the class to read said book or story on their own, some will read it quickly, some will only make it partway through the text in the allotted time, and some will never read it at all.  Making them read it out loud ensures that they’ve all at least heard the story.  And reading out loud is a skill in and of itself.  Indeed, many adults still do it poorly.  So it is worth teaching, right?  Nevertheless, if any of you made it all the way through school without being subjected to round-robin reading, look both ways carefully when you cross the street, because you can’t expect to be that lucky all your life.





  1. Ack! The horror, the horror!  If I have nightmares tonight I am blaming you! (points finger accusingly at the monitor)Lordy, I hated school. For the very reasons you give. The same reasons my two boys don’t like school. “Why do we have to spend weeks doing the same thing?”  “Why do we have to read out loud like that?” “Why does the teacher only give us baby books to read? They’re so boring.” I have often secretly thought my life would have been a lot easier if I’d been a bit … dumber. My sympathies to your two girls. Tell them I feel their pain.

  2. I am 45 years old, and I still remember that a teacher in Mississippi named Mrs. McWhorter, who looked ot be about 105 years old back then, actually HIT ME ON THE HAND for reading AHEAD of the class during a a Round Robin reading activity (I was deadly bored for the reasons you listed above, and read ahead to find out what had happened in the story). She figured it out because when it was my turn, I had to turn back several pages. Yes, she actually hit me for that. SIGH. Lisa

  3. Oh, how I hated round robin reading.   When I transferred to a new school, on the first day, it became apparent that I read aloud better than every kid in the class, so after that embarrassing first day, I had to put on an act of stumbling and clawing through the passage so as not to be different from the other kids.  And I used to get annoyed at how long it took to get through the page, so I’d read ahead and then not know where we were when my turn came, although I suppose that helped enhance my poor reader act.

  4. Argggh! I do remember. I was the one that had finished the book the day it was passed out. We all sat in assigned seats and would read in order. As soon as the reading began, I’d count to find out what I’d read next. Then I’d place an X next to the paragraph, put my finger in the book and drift off to my imaginary world. It kept me entertained and I was always ready to read my part! Third grade torture with Mrs. Vest.

  5. I was read to aloud as a child by my mother, who in another life was probably in the theater, and I was the oldest of 5 kids, so I had a lot of practice myself. And I was an insufferable showoff, as a child, so I doubt I won any friends or influenced any enemies during reading aloud time in class. My friend Vic and I used to race to see who could read the fastest.I don’t think reading something aloud to others is the same skill as just reading. I know I’ve read things in class–perhaps even well–and later couldn’t remember what the thing I read was even about. My friend who is a poor reader has often mentioned being called on to read as one of the worst experiences in her school life, and she said the same thing: whatever she managed to read aloud to the class was just gone once she’d read it. I think it is the reading equivalent to sleeping through the end of a TV program. I’m not sure what it proves. 

  6. Chip actually likes to read aloud.  In fact, several teachers have remarked at how he actually puts feeling and emphasis into what he’s reading… as if he’s acting in a play.   I remember round-robin reading, but I don’t remember disliking it… probably because deep down, I’m a ham.

  7. This round-robin reading is torture for everyone.  I always felt bad for the kids who couldn’t read well because it took them so long and I knew they had to be hating every minute of it.  I mean, I could read it myself and tune out the voice of whoever was reading, but the poor kid reading is hyper-aware of all his/her mistakes and struggles.  I didn’t like reading aloud–I read just fine, but I didn’t like feeling like everyone’s attention was on me.  Certainly not everyone’s attention was on me, of course, but that’s not how it feels when you’re the one reading aloud.  I always thought it was mean of teachers to make kids read aloud in front of everyone.

  8. I was a read ahead kid too.   We used to go to school a week or so before classes started to get our books for the year.    It was a Catholic school, so I don’t know if the public schools did it that way.    I would rush home and read all the books ahead of time and then when I did start classes, I was bored silly by the slowness of it all.    Mama kept my mind occupied by taking me to the library as often as possible and if I dared say I was bored at home I was given chores to do to fill my time.    I remember reading aloud in school, but I really don’t remember taking turns.   But that was such a long time ago.   

  9. Guess I better look both ways. I don’t recall this at all. I remember spelling bees and it is a bit un-nerving to know a once good speller has so much trouble now. Could it be all the IM way of typing? Nah…

  10. I disliked reading in groups too.  Everything in school seemed geared to the dopey.  I was always reading something else in class when it was my turn.  One time my teacher came over and took the book I was actually reading, so I would focus on what the class was doing.  She gave it back to my parents on Parent-Teacher night, and they scoweled at me for a week and said I shouldn’t take my own personal books to school anymore.  So I just read library books for the rest of the year.

  11. Huh.  I had totally forgotten about “Round-Robin” reading.  But now that you mention it, I do remember reading ahead and also trying very hard not to twitch on behalf of the kids who didn’t read very well.   I always thought it worked out fairly well though.   All those slow readers got even with me BIG time during math class.

  12. Obviously this problem is inherited!  While reading your blog it all came back to me.  The torture of listening to Stevie Wasserman reading aloud, was almost more than some of us could bear!  The only time in my whole life I was popular was when the teacher called on me to read, especially if she called on me right after Stevie!

  13. How shameful, making boys and girls work together. One of my gradeschool teachers had this horrible concept of “popcorn reading”: when you were done with your passage, you had to name someone else to go next, but they had to be *of the opposite sex*. If you made the mistake of picking the same person twice, it was assumed you had a crush on them. We had an unequal amount of males and females in my class, so if we were running out and I hadn’t been called yet, I would go to the bathroom and pray that they would forget I had been skipped when I got back.  

  14. this entry made me smile. not a big, beaming smile but one of those wry, half-smiles.I didn’t mind round robin reading, I just kept my finger on the page and guessed approximately how much text would be read before it would get to me. Then I zoned out and read ahead. On good days, I’d be finish the book before class ended.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s