TRC Read to Kids

Welcome to The Reading Connection’s blog, where you’ll find the best guidance on reading aloud to kids. Whether you are a TRC Read-Aloud volunteer, parent or student, the book themes and crafts ideas, child development guidelines and recommended websites will expand your world. For 25 years, The Reading Connection has worked to improve the lives of at-risk kids by linking the magic of reading to fun experiences that inspire a passion for learning. Visit our website at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Active Reading: Mem Fox Shows How and Why

One of TRC's favorite authors, Mem Fox, has written over 30 children's books and five nonfiction books for adults.  Fox's Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is a fabulous read-aloud choice. Her nonfiction book for adults, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever shares TRC's read-aloud approach (do it as often as possible!) and her website is full of suggestions and how-tos for reading aloud. 

On the website, you can hear Mem read aloud from a section from her book titled "And do it like this."

"Reading aloud," Mem says, "is not quite enough -- we need to read aloud well."

Research shows that children need to hear 1,000 stories read aloud before they can learn to read themselves. Mem's philosophy is that for a child to sit still long enough to hear 1,000 stories, what they're hearing needs to be good! Just reading isn't enough; you need to read actively. 

What is active reading? For Mem, it means being aware of your expression, your body position and make eye contact with your audience. Make faces, change your tone and the speed of your reading. Hear her elaborate on active reading here.

When Mem reads, she emphasizes the music of the human voice. Change your pitch, go up and down. Whisper and shout! Speed up and slow down with the story. Make it exciting! 

Other than putting your audience to sleep, the most important thing to avoid is being patronizing. Mem cautions: "We have to make a conscious decision never to talk down to children."

To hear the rest from a professional reader, go to Mem's website and listen for yourself. She reads to adults from Reading Magic the way children should be read to -- like she's having a great time. 

Another great part of Mem's website is her ten read-aloud commandments. Not all can be applied to our Read-Alouds, but here are some that can:
  • Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.

  • Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.

  • Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.

  • Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.

  • Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Report Feature: Pizza Party!

What could be better than pizza? 

The kids at a recent Carpenter’s Shelter Read-Aloud could not contain their exuberance when they found out they were going to make their own pizzas and get to eat them!  

The kids were set up with English muffins, pizza sauce and toppings (including lots of cheese!). They assembled their own personal pizzas with a little help from volunteers. There is nothing better than a delicious snack made just the way you like it!

English muffins (split)
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese

Put the pizzas in a toaster oven set to broil. Have someone keep an eye on them so the cheese doesn't burn!

While the pizzas were toasting, volunteers read the following books about pizza:

The Little Red Hen by Philemon Sturges
The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane
Dragon Pizzeria by Mary Morgan

The kids at Carpenter's especially loved Dragon Pizzeria. They loved it when all the adult readers got involved with voices for all the charaters. When the adults are into the story, the kids will get in to it too!

While you're sitting with the kids eating pizza, start a conversation about the books or even just about food.  Ask the kids to name their favorite kind of pizza, and then ask what they'd like to put on it next time. You'll all have a great time -- it's not hard to keep a roomful of kids excited about pizza!

Here's to a creative and delicious Read-Aloud idea!

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Setting the Stage for a Book

What you do before you begin reading is just as important to a Read-Aloud as the book itself. Setting the stage for whatever book you're going to read is a critical part of a Read-Aloud, and for a young reader it can make the difference between a good time and a depressingly school-like experience. One of the immediate goals of a Read-Aloud is for the kids to enjoy themselves. For that to happen, they need to feel comfortable and get excited about the story. 

This is another reason that it's important to be familiar with the book you're going to read. What is the setting of the book? What decisions do the characters face? What are some themes that young readers might relate to? Here are some techniques for setting the stage and getting kids involved before the first page is turned.

Set the stage, literally.
ARHA volunteers set the scene for an ocean themed
Read-Aloud with a fishing game and beach visors.
At a Read-Aloud at ARHA last summer, one team announced that the theme of the day was going to be the beach and then emptied a bag full of brightly colored towels on to the floor! The kids had a blast choosing towels and spreading them out on the floor to sit on. They even put on sunscreen!

Doing something special to get prepared for a story goes a long way toward putting kids in a story-time mood, and sitting on a beach towel while listening to a story about the beach gives them something to relate to. The technique of saying, "We're going to read a story about the beach, so we'd better get ready to go to the beach!" creates a sense of anticipation for the story.

This technique can be recreated for many different themes, and you can take it as far as you want to.

Ask questions.
"Have any of you ever been to the beach?" "What's your favorite thing to do there?" "Do you like to swim?" "What happens when a wave hits you?" "What kind of food do you eat at the beach?"  Asking the kids questions not only gets them involved intellectually and makes them feel valued, but also leads them directly into the story.

Don't be afraid to talk about the subject before the story has even started--a good book makes it easy to strike up conversation! It'll get the kids thinking about the topic and their natural curiosity will lead them to listen as you read about it.  Getting the kids thinking about the Read-Aloud topic before you start reading will also increase their understanding of the story.  It's called "activating background knowledge" and it is a key part of reading comprehension.

Introduce the activities before you start the story.
If your theme is baking and you're planning on decorating cupcakes after the story, say that at the beginning: "How many of you like cupcakes? Well, we're going to hear a story about a boy who makes the most beautiful cupcakes and then we're going to decorate some ourselves!"

All of these techniques are about getting kids engaged with the theme. Everyone is more likely to listen to material they're interested in, and having something to look forward to will help young readers get excited and engaged. For kids who are unfamiliar with or apathetic toward reading, knowing there are interesting stories out there and learning that reading isn't something that you only do in school will make them feel more positive toward books and reading in general. So: set the stage, get in the mood, and have a great time reading!

Post by The Reading Connection intern Anna McCormally.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Read-Alouds with parents

Parents at Read-Alouds?  You bet! 

At The Reading Connection, we're all about helping families create home environments that support reading. Doing that in a long-lasting way means helping parents get their kids excited about books.

Does it change the dynamic of the volunteer-led Read-Aloud when parents are there? Of course it does. But it is all worth it to have  more people in a kid's life having fun with books. 

Volunteers from Alive! House in Alexandria, where parents attend every Read-Aloud, tell us that the kids like having their parents there. The kids are usually better behaved and they love showing their crafts to their mothers.

So if parents drop in to your Read-Aloud (or if your site requires their participation), try these strategies to engage them:

Be welcoming and encouraging!  Introduce yourself to the parent and find out who her children are. Share your experiences with her kids and ask about her kids' interests and feelings about reading. Give her a sneak preview of the night's theme and activity.

Invite them to participate.  Grown-ups like having fun too. And parents are great at modeling how to listen to a story and how to chime in with rhymes and repetition. When you break into smaller groups to read, invite a parent to join your small group. They may also enjoy helping with the activity or listening as their child chooses a book to keep.

Model book-sharing and conversation about books.  Some parents may never have seen how their child reacts to a book being read aloud. Some may not be familiar with talking about a book with a child while reading it. Watching you and a child have fun with books can build a parent's confidence to try it herself. 

Use the Promises and stay positive.  If kids need to be refocused during a Read-Aloud, and you are feeling self-conscious about guiding a child whose parent is attending, remember your TRC Promises. The kids know that at a Read-Aloud everyone agrees to "Listen, Respect, Cooperate and Have Fun." Ask for, and model, the behavior you want to see from the child.

Meet parents where they are.  Remember that you are a guest in their home. Some parents may be more engaged than others, and that's just fine. Remember that while most of the families we serve are under an enormous amount of stress, TRC moms and dads, like all parents, want their kids to learn and have fun. 

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hard times generation: Homeless kids

This story from the TV show "60 Minutes," Hard times generation: Homeless kids, gives a kid's perspective on the experience of being homeless. It was recognized by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth with a President's Award for Outstanding Media Representation of Homeless Education.

The experiences our kids have prior to getting into a shelter and how they feel about what their families are going through are likely to be very similar to those of the kids profiled in this video.

Watch the video below and think about how the kids you work with might be feeling on a night you come to read with them.

You might want to check out the extras too. There are some interesting insights.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey

Tired of this picture?

In Gracias The Thanksgiving Turkey, Joy Cowley puts a spin on a holiday story that will engage children who have had it up to here with pilgrims!

This brightly colored children's tale follows the story of Miguel, a young Puerto Rican boy living in New York City. Miguel is thrilled to receive a present from his father, a truck driver who spends his days on the road.

"Fatten this turkey for Thanksgiving," the note from Miguel's father reads. "I’ll be home to share it with you. Love from Papá."

Conflict ensues when Miguel befriends Gracias the turkey, whom he then hesitates to eat. Problems range from where the turkey will sleep 
in a tiny New York apartment, to whether or not the turkey can come to Mass. I won't spoil the ending, but kids will love Miguel's struggle over Gracias -- as well as his reunion with his father.

Gracias is characterized by bright pictures and colors, and a multi-cultural dimension makes this story unique in a way that is missing from many more traditional Thanksgiving stories.

For activities to go along with this book, consider the tried-and-true hand turkey: have the kids trace their hands on construction paper and cut out the tracings. Have them give the turkeys names, like Miguel did with Gracias. Talk about pets that they might have or have had, and how to take care of them.

For ideas of other Thanksgiving-related activities, check out this website.

Post by The Reading Connection intern Anna McCormally.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Using Children's Magazines

Fed up with fiction? Some young readers are hungry for facts on their favorite topics—and that kind of curiosity should never go unattended! Nothing lends itself to a Read-Aloud like a kid who’s eager to learn more about a topic. Sometimes it can be hard to find a nonfiction book that’s not too dry, so don’t be afraid to turn to other media.

Kids' magazines provide great, concise reading material: they’re full of short articles, activities, and brightly-colored pictures. National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated KidsTime for Kids, Click and Dig are just a few of the excellent kids' magazines being published.

Ranger Rick is a good example of a magazine designed for knowledge-hungry kids. It is a monthly children's magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation and narrated by this guy:
The magazine explores different topics about the animal kingdom and great outdoors. It can be great for introducing readers to new topics or exploring ones they already know a little bit about. The design is especially good for short attention spans! Big print, diagrams, and easy-to-read maps characterize the articles, and some of them are tailor-made to adult/kid reading pairs. Consider the article “In search of seashells” from the September 2011 issue.

The article provides activity ideas for kids on a seashell hunt: playing games with the shells, creating art projects, telling stories, and even classifying them using simple classification tools explained in the article. ("'Uni' means one, 'bi' means two" an illustrated girl explains.) All of the activities they describe can easily be turned into a Read-Aloud with a handful of seashells and some other books about the beach and sea animals. Even better, the article is short enough to keep even the most fidgety reader's interest.

For a kid interested in wild animals, Ranger Rick offers plenty of pictures of wide-toothed sharks and true stories about silly animal antics. If a kid is having trouble engaging in the Read-Aloud, stories about monkeys being chased through the streets by policemen in India might just do the trick! After you've gotten your reader's attention, why not keep it by following up with a Curious George story or a non-fiction book about monkeys?

Children's magazines can serve as a great segue into a new subject or as a way to mix things up if they're getting dull. Consider checking them out next time you're at the library if you know you have a particularly bouncy kid.

More activities can be found at the National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rick website.

Post by The Reading Connection intern Anna McCormally.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Be prepared to read

We've said it again and again — be sure to read your books before coming to a Read-Aloud. Here are a few reasons why it's important to read ahead, along with some strategies to help your team prepare.

Why should you read the books ahead of time?
  • Know what's in the books: There's nothing worse than reading a book to a group of interested kids and turning the page to find a topic that you don't want to broach. For example, some books about pirates discuss human trafficking. This is probably not a topic you planned on bringing up during your fun pirate Read-Aloud. If you still want to use a book with less desirable parts, paper clip together the pages you'd like to skip so the kids don't notice and be sure to alert your teammates.
  • Get tips from the author: Many picture books are written with the express purpose of being read aloud. The authors include keys to readers such as text in all caps or italics to indicate that these words should be read loud or in a special voice.   These hints can also indicate an action like "BOOM, BOOM, BOOM" to indicate stomping or "SNIFF! SNIFF! SNIFF!" for sniffing from The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. Reading through the story in advance allows you to find these special parts and know how to read them aloud. 
  • Find hidden treasures:  Reading through the books in advance lets you examine the illustrations and overall design. Look for details or patterns in the pictures to spark the kids' interest. Some design features, such as page breaks, support getting the kids to predict what will happen next.  When a sentence leaves you hanging as you turn the page, pause and let the kids predict.
  • Link activities to the books:  In Harry Potter Mr. Olivander says, "The wand chooses the wizard." At Read-Alouds, sometimes the book chooses the activity! When you read a book in advance, you allow it to drop the activity into your hands. For example, if you read How I Became a Pirate by David Shannon, make a treasure map like the character Jeremy Jacob does. This will allow the kids make a concrete connection between what's in the book and the real world.

What is the best way for your team to be prepared?
  • One team at ALIVE! House recommends that everyone on the team bring some books on the theme to the Read-Aloud. This way, each person is familiar with the books he/she brought and is prepared to read them to the group. This also facilitates small group reading by providing more books to use.
  • A volunteer at ARHA who usually brings the books for her team solves this problem by reading the books in advance and then putting sticky notes inside the books for other readers to reference. Her teammates arrive to the Read-Aloud a few minutes early, flip through the books and read the notes so they are prepared to read to the group.

Does your team have other ideas?  Share them in the comments below.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Report Feature: Unexpected Endings

Learn more about a Read Aloud from the Berkeley, where kids ages 4 to 10 heard stories with unexpected endings, and then enjoyed an unexpected ending of their own!

  • Guess Again! by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
  • Beware of the Frog by William Bee
  • The End by David LaRochelle
  • Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis

After a summer hiatus, the fall kick-off event for the Berkeley was the "unexpected ending" Read-Aloud. The unexpected ending for the evening was an ice cream social. 

Additional activity ideas:
Create an outlandish story by the group. An adult begins a story with a traditional start. "Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived with his family in a small cottage in the woods. One day, he went out for a walk, only to find...." Then, let each Read-Aloud participant contribute to the story with the most unexpected twist they can think of. For example, " orange octopus wearing a top hat and eating 8 lollipops." The story should continue from person to person until every child has had a chance to add his or her outlandish details.

Rewrite traditional fairy tales or nursery rhymes. In this activity, children create new, unexpected endings for familiar stories. What if Little Red Riding Hood stopped for a picnic, eating all the snacks she was supposed to bring to Grandmother? What if Grandmother captured the Big Bad Wolf and kept him as a pet? What if Cinderella decided she'd rather go to library instead of the ball? What if Snow White got super powers from that poisoned apple? This activity will stimulate great discussions among the kids. At the end, they'll enjoy drawing a scene from their favorite version.

Roll with the ideas the kids produce and have a great Read-Aloud with unexpected endings! Use the comments section below to let us know your ideas for an unexpected ending Read-Aloud or share some of the stories created in your Read-Aloud. 

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Read-Aloud Planning Advice from the Experts--TRC Volunteers

Who better to teach TRC volunteers about planning and conducting winning Read-Alouds than other volunteers?  In the October 2011 Volunteer Seminar, three highly successful Read-Alouds, conducted during summer and fall of 2011, were highlighted because they demonstrate some best practices in planning and implementation. A big thanks to Kim Gilliam, Rebecca Smith and Margaret Roberts for sharing their stellar sessions. Read on for techniques to use in developing your own themes or feel free to use these Read-Alouds just as they're written. 
ARHA kids go fishing
Appeal to the five senses: We understand best when multiple senses are engaged. Listening to a book engages the sense of hearing, but what if you could engage all five? To appeal to multiple senses in a beach Read-Aloud, bring in sand and shells to touch, seaweed to taste, ocean sounds to listen to, salt water to smell or pictures of a recent trip to the beach to see. Bringing these items gives the kids more ways to experience the theme and builds their background knowledge more thoroughly.

Include a game or physical activity:  Games and physical activities bring your theme to life in the time and space available. At a beach Read-Aloud, use paper fish with magnets and wooden rods with paperclip hooks. At a human body Read-Aloud, play "Operation" and give the kids a shot at being a doctor. Experiencing your theme will build kids' vocabulary and general knowledge.

Look for books with fantastic illustrations: Try organizing an entire Read-Aloud around books with compelling or intricate illustrations. Start with a book such as Animalia by Graeme Base.  This is an ABC book with intricate illustrations that works effectively with both young and older kids. You can decide to use books with the same illustration style or, to deepen the conversation, mix in books with different illustration styles such as photography, collage or painting.

Sing! Kids love silly songs. Books like Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Science Verse put silly words to traditional tunes like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."

Include nonfiction: Kids are eager for facts and love nonfiction books. Many nonfiction books have great photographs and many even rhyme. Try I Wonder Why I Blink by Brigid Avison for a human body theme or What the Sea Saw by Stephanie St. Pierre for a beach theme.

Allow for creativity: Include an activity that allows the kids to express their uniqueness. Kids can create their own ABC illustrations, inspired by Animalia, by cutting pictures out of old magazines and catalogs and making a collage. Make a paper-plate aquarium with cellophane and cut-out fish in a beach-themed Read-Aloud. Having an open-ended craft allows the little ones to do what they can and still feel productive, while the older kids can to make their creations as elaborate as they like.

In addition to the great themes and tips from TRC volunteers, TRC staff also provided outlines for some favorite Read-Alouds for volunteers to re-create at their own sites. If you're ever lacking an idea, feel free to use any of these.
Independence Place kids exploring
a Mad Science Read-Aloud with
their hands.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Helping Kids Choose Books

Do you know that feeling of excitement and infinite possibility when you walk in to a book store and know you can pick anything you want? And the delight and anticipation as you open your new book for the first time?

That's exactly what we want for our TRC kids when they choose books at the end of each Read-Aloud.

Kids tell us that their favorite part of the Read-Aloud is when they get to choose a new book to keep. And reading research tells us that getting to choose is as important to building reading motivation as fun experiences with books and reading role models.

So how do you help a child choose?

Familiarize yourself with the give-away books so that you know what is available. Be prepared to talk with the kids about the different types of books. Describe different genres. Introduce new authors and illustrators. Turn them on to a new series.

Bring a book to life. If a child is wondering if she'll like a book, read some of it to her. Point out rhyme, repetition, illustrations, chances to guess what happens next, humor, suspense, and interesting characters.

Help the kids be “great book detectives” by examining available clues:

  • Cover—is it appealing?
  • Author or illustrator—do they know them? Like them?
  • Excerpts or reviews on the back or inside the cover
  • Is it part of a series they’ve read and liked?
  • How long is it?
  • What do their friends know about it?
  • How does it read? Try the first page and see.

Pay attention to the kids at your Read-Alouds. Notice what kinds of books or experiences excite them. Ask them about their likes and dislikes. Then, play matchmaker between the kids and the books.

Most important: let kids choose on their own. Please don’t stop children from taking books that you think are too easy or too hard for them to read. Kids, just like adults, are drawn to books for all kinds of reasons—memories, dreams, curiosity. Books can comfort a child or encourage one to try something new and challenging.

Only if a child asks you if a particular books is too hard for her to read, have her try this Five Finger Test.

Our goal is to have each TRC kid leave a Read-Aloud with a book he or she is excited to read!

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Feature: Llama Llama Red Pajama

The week of October 3, 2011, The Reading Connection is participating in Jumpstart's "Read for the Record."  The goal of the event is to get two million people to read the same book, Llama Llama Red Pajama, on the same day to call attention to efforts to end the early education achievement gap.

Little Llama is all tucked into bed when he realizes he needs a drink. He calls down to his Mama Llama, but she's busy washing dishes and a phone call and doesn't come right away. Her delayed response distresses Little Llama to the point of a quite amusing meltdown. As in each of the Llama Llama books, the story ends in calm, reassuring words of wisdom from Mama Llama.

To make a llama themed Read-Aloud, try other Llama Llama titles including:
  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama about a not-so-fun shopping trip
  • Llama Llama Misses Mama about going off to preschool
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama about waiting for the holidays to arrive
  • Llama Llama Home With Mama about being home sick from school

Another good rhyming llama book is Is Your Llama a Llama? For activity ideas, check out the Llama Llama website.

Thanks to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, each child attending a Read-Aloud session this week will receive a copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama.

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

FamilyFun Activities

It can be challenging to come up with activities, crafts or games that children find exciting, so why not ask the experts for some help?

When searching for out-of-the-box craft ideas or fun games, we often turn to the internet. One of our favorite sources is the FamilyFun website. FamilyFun is a monthly magazine published by Disney that's devoted to providing parents and caregivers with fun activities, crafts, and recipes to do with kids.

Doing a theme on frogs? Learn how to make origami frog jumpers and have a race across the table or play leap-frog with the kids. Reading about superheros? Have each kid fill out their Superhero Identity Card and imagine what super powers they would have. For a deep sea theme, you could combine the snack and activity by making a Banana Octopus. If you're looking to encourage teamwork, here's a game with hula hoops that makes everyone work together but requires very few supplies. We did a successful teamwork theme with the summer reading sites at the end of the summer, but you can try it at any time of the year.

To find an idea, enter a theme in the search field in the top right corner of the FamilyFun website and click "search." You can use the filter tool to view results by a specific category, such as games or recipes, to help narrow down the choices. There's a whole section on seasonal ideas, so if your theme is holiday- or season-related, you'll find all sorts of ideas there!

Do you have other sources for great activity or craft ideas? Share them with us in the comments below!

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Report Feature: Detectives Read-Aloud

Learn about a great forensics Read-Aloud held at Sullivan House, where six- to ten-year-olds discovered the how-tos of investigation. The sample activities below will help you hold your own Detetives or CSI Read-Aloud.

  • Crime Lab Technician by John Townsend (nonfiction)
  • Mystery at the Club Sandwich by Doug Cushman (fiction)
  • The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner by Eileen Christelow (fiction)
The Read-Aloud included listening to Crime Lab Technician, followed by fingerprint matching! By comparing nine real fingerprints to a copy of a fingerprint found at the crime scene, the children tested their investigative skills. 

  • Compare bar codes by preparing 15 sample bar codes to bar codes drawn from a bag. The skills used to find matching bar codes are the same skills used to compare DNA by CSI!
  • Tape an animal to each child's back (the child should not know what animal it is), have the children pair off, and show them how asking questions of their partner about the mystery animal leads to correct identification. Making deductions from interviews is an important part of investigative work.
  • Prepare a tray containing 10 items and give the children about 10 seconds to look at the tray. Then take the tray away and ask the children how many items they remember. This demonstrates how difficult it is to remember detailed information and how hard it is to obtain details from an interview.

These activities are a great way to incorporate science, nonfiction, and thinking about careers into a Read-Aloud. Great job Team 3!

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Using Songs and Finger Plays

Do you see many two- to five-year-olds in your Read-Aloud group? You'll notice that their attention span is quite short. To keep the children engaged, try using songs and finger plays in between books.

What is a finger play? Do you remember singing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" as a child? Did you make hand motions as you sang? That's a finger play! Finger plays add coordinated, simple movements to a song. Young children imitate what they see you doing with your hands. Finger plays are a fun way to learn!

Check the internet for songs and finger plays aimed at preschoolers. Creative preschool teachers and play group leaders adapt classic sing-alongs to relate to almost any theme imaginable. Need a song about firefighters? Try "I'm a Little Teapot," morphed into "I'm a Little Firefighter."

Classic Finger Play Songs 
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Wheels on the Bus
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
Five Little Monkeys Playing in a Tree
Five Little Ducks
This Little Piggy

Active Finger Play Songs 
I'm a Little Teapot
Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
If You're Happy and You Know It

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Feature: Good Sports

Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing and More

Good Sports: Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing and More contains poems about a wide range of sports and the children who play them.  These rhymes are not about star athletes, but about kids who like playing sports. One of the fun things about this book is that it features a wide range of sports, not just soccer, basketball and football. You'll read poems about Frisbee, track, swimming and others.

This book is a great choice for a Read-Aloud about sports or outdoor activities. The poems are short, but include complex vocabulary, so it's best for six- to twelve-year-olds.

  • Ask children to come up with sports not covered in the book, like skiing, bike riding and diving. If they need other ideas, they can think about sports that are part of the Olympics.
  • Talk about the illustrations; ask if it looks like the pictures are moving. Can the children draw action pictures?
  • Discuss the children's favorite sports. Are these sports in the book? Are their experiences with the sport similar to or different from those expressed in the poems?

To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Prediction: What Happens Next?

    Prediction is important in the world of a reader. Studies show that we don't actually read every word on a page, but instead infer based on what we predict will happen next. When reading with children, it's important to stop and ask what they think will happen next. In a Read-Aloud, children use information they have already heard to guess what will happen later in the story.

    Thinking about using prediction in your Read-Aloud? Try reading cumulative tales; these stories build on consecutive steps. Two great cumulative tales are There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and The Napping House. Ask the children in your Read-Aloud to guess what the old lady is going to swallow next or how the story is going to end.

    Ready to apply prediction skills during a Read-Aloud?
    • Before the Read-Aloud, create index cards with sequential elements of a story on each card and mix them up. At the Read-Aloud, let the children work together to put the steps in order. 
    • Instead of using a story, use an activity the children will know well, like getting ready for school or making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Have fun with the activity! Be silly and add an illogical step, like brushing your teeth in the PB&J sequence, and see if the children catch on.

    Further Reading and Additional Activities
    How did the sequencing go? Interested in learning more about thinking in order? Learn more about sequential learning from this great Reading Rockets article; here you'll find lists of books and activities for helping children play with prediction skills and sequencing.

    To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Consider New Readers

    What is unique about children when they first start to read?

    Children of all ages attend Read-Alouds. To craft successful Read-Alouds, it is important to realize that children's interests and abilities vary according to their age, personality, emotional development and level of literacy. Let's look at five- to seven-year-olds.

    These children are able to sit still and pay attention. They have begun the work of learning to read and need to start having fun with books. They like being read to and like to talk about books and stories. 

    • Five- to seven-year-olds like fairy and folk tales and stories with animals that talk. Folk and fairy tales often provide repetition or a familiar structure that encourages the children to chime in or repeat the story to you.
    • Simple nonfiction is also popular — children have an appetite for facts.
    • Stories about school, home, other kids and familiar experiences provide a chance for kids to apply their own experiences to the story, and vice versa.  
    • Children like to show off their newly acquired reading skills. A few minutes spent one-on-one with a new reader will make her or his day!
    • New readers love to fill in repeated phrases and provide the correct rhyming word. Be sure to give children a chance to do so by pausing and letting them shout out the next word.

    General Tips for Success
    • New readers need more attention than experienced readers. To keep the children focused, split them into smaller groups and give them more personal attention.
    • When possible, let the children choose the next book from those books you brought with you. They love to call the shots, and for children whose lives are chaotic and stressful, having a say is very powerful. 
    • Take time to talk about what you've read with the children. This acknowledgment is very important. Listen to their ideas and show that you value them as fellow readers and people.

    To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Becoming the Volunteer You Want To Be

    We open every Read-Aloud with the TRC Promises, but what are the promises you need to make as a volunteer? What are you promising to the children, to your team and to yourself? Leading a Read-Aloud can be stressful, but you can also focus on the fun. Here is a four-part approach to managing behavior so everyone has a good time.

    1. Respect
    • Be prepared. Having your materials ready makes it easier on yourself, your team and the children. Communicating as a team before the Read-Aloud date doesn't just make it easier to plan, it will also mean you're in a better state of mind to have fun and enjoy time with the children. This is decidedly better than scrambling to decide which books to read or how to organize an activity at the Read-Aloud.
    • Use the TRC Promises. Not only are the promises — listen, respect, cooperate and have fun — good guidelines for living well, these promises are also a contract that the children know. We call them "promises," not "rules," to remind us that listening, respecting, cooperating and having fun are what we want to do. 
    • Value the child. This is one of the most important parts of a Read-Aloud: demonstrating to a child that he or she is important, smart and worth your attention. Call the children by name, listen to their ideas and opinions, engage in real conversations and set age-appropriate expectations. 

    2. Engage
    • Be direct. Use techniques to focus and refocus the children. Think back to our Spring 2010 training about using energizers and calming activities. To boost energy, consider "Dum Dum Dah Dah" or "Go Bananas." You can always use tricks that you know like playing Simon Says, dancing to the Hokey Pokey or getting warmed up with some stretches. For calming children down, try the "Now I'm Still" exercise or "1,2,3 Calm Down Me." Another good option is "If you can hear my voice." 
    • Get attention. Use active reading techniques like having the kids point out things in the pictures, act out the movements or say the rhyming words. Remember to set up the story and pace the reading to build suspense and draw attention to how you tell the story.
    • Use your numbers. While one person is reading, the other volunteers should sit among the kids and be actively engaged in the reading. Show the kids what it means to be engaged in a book by roaring when cued or by filling in the missing rhyming word.  

    3. Adapt
    • Strategize the team. Are the some of the kids distracted or having trouble focusing? Split it up! If you have enough volunteers, break out into smaller groups with one volunteer and a few kids per group. The kids will love the personal attention and it will be easier for them to focus on the book in front of them.
    • Make a Plan B. Children like options, so have a choice ready! Be open to the unexpected. If your sponge race turns into a water fight, it's okay! A water fight is fun, too, and "kids will be kids." Which brings us to:
    • Bring humor. We laugh at the unexpected, so laugh when it happens to you. The children and you will feel relief knowing you brought joy!

    4. Discover
    • Learn. When you ask the children to share their time with you, you are immersing yourself in the world of the children. Take time to learn from them and ask when you don't understand something or think they may not. Listen to be heard.
    • Develop. Ask yourself: What you are taking away? What do you bring with you? Where do you plan to be? What is the objective? Is this the best way to lead a Read-Aloud? Reflect on the lesson you learn to so that you constantly improve.

    To receive credit for this online training, please fill out the form here.