1.12 Reading Aloud and Positive Psychology

Psychology tries to understand how people think and behave. Traditional Psychology has focused on problems people have, such as being so afraid that they cannot function or not understanding reality. In contrast, the focus in Positive Psychology is on the good things in people’s lives, such as feeling happy and cared for, what their strengths are, and what successes they have.

We should not ignore the negatives in people’s life, but maybe we should focus more on the positives in our lives and the lives of others. Positive Psychology gives research-based ideas for how to see and build positives. A positive environment during read aloud sessions encourages children to link reading with happiness. The association between reading and happiness inspires children to make reading, either reading aloud or reading silently, a life-long habit. Indeed, for many people, read aloud sessions are one of their most cherished childhood memories.

The purpose of this text is to discuss how to combine ideas from Positive Psychology with reading aloud. Table 1 explains concepts from Positive Psychology and suggests ways to use them when reading aloud.

Table 1

Way to Promote Positives Explanation of That Way Suggestions for Using That Way When Reading Aloud
Gratitude Identify who and what we are grateful for and express that gratitude (1) Thank everyone for taking part in the read aloud session.

(2) In the books we read, look for people who show gratitude or who should show gratitude.

Strengths Notice strengths in ourselves and others, and consider how to utilize and develop those strengths (1) Look for what the child(ren) do well and give specific praise about that. (2) Discuss strengths of the book’s characters and how the child(ren) can build those strengths.
Optimism See the glass as half (or more) full, not as half empty; look on the bright side (1) When discussing the lives of the child(ren) who you read with, be optimistic that they can overcome obstacles. (2) Be optimistic about how your read aloud sessions will continue and build from strength to strength.
Achievements Congratulate ourselves and others for completing tasks and growing our knowledge and skill (1) Think about the process of your read aloud sessions. How have the sessions improved, e.g., people are asking more questions. (2) Has the child(ren)’s reading, vocabulary, etc. improved? Small improvements are important.
Relationships Spend time to build relationships with others in the read aloud session. Create a feeling of belonging (1) Read aloud sessions are about so much more than just reading the book. Spend time to chat about other topics. (2) Show that you value the child(ren) and the time you spend together, doing reading aloud and other activities.
Meaning This is not about the meaning of the words in the book. Instead, meaning is about identifying why the book and the reading aloud sessions are valued. (1) Discuss how the contents of the book connect with the child(ren)’s lives. (2) How can you and the child(ren) do other meaningful activities together?
Acts of Kindness Two types of acts of kindness are acts planned in advance or random acts that occur without planning. Both types create a positive attitude and a feeling of belonging (1) Bring a small gift for the child(ren). (2) Pay attention to whether everyone feels comfortable, and help them if they do not.

Summary: Creating a positive environment makes a read aloud session more enjoyable and useful. Positive Psychology offers ideas for doing that.