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

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.