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, 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.

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