The Randolph School library began on South Randolph Avenue in Poughkeepsie, and was initially filled with donations from the founding families. They gave classic children’s literature by Tove Jansson, Robert McCloskey, Lloyd Alexander, Astrid Lindgren, Jean Craighead George, Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, and others. These books came from their own bookshelves, were borrowed, or were purchased new, many with helpful advice from the children’s librarian at the Poughkeepsie public library.
Those early Randolph teachers and parents recognized the value of a large and thoughtfully curated collection of children’s literature for children’s learning. They knew that reading is not just the skillful use of phonetic cues, but a way into a whole world of imagination and information. They saw books as things of aesthetic value as well as cultural significance, of emotion as well as beauty. They knew that literature was meant to be shared as well as pored over alone, to be heard aloud as well as mastered individually.
Every age (adults, too!) can benefit from listening. I have been reading aloud to Randolph students for all of the 25 years I’ve been teaching here–children from three years old right through to our oldest students. I come from a family that treasured reading aloud as an important part of our life together. As I’ve been developing my own approach to teaching and learning (an approach that is still ongoing after almost six decades of teaching children and adults), I’ve seen what a powerful teaching tool this way of sharing texts can be. Even students who can read with ease respond deeply to the shared experience of reading aloud, while children who are at an earlier stage in their reading mastery can appreciate and respond with understanding to material that they wouldn’t be able to read themselves. I have taught many subjects to many ages during my time at Randolph, and reading aloud continues to be a wonderful part of my work.