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

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.

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