TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Read-Alouds for the older crowd: how to keep tweens engaged

Occasionally you might find yourself at a Read-Aloud mainly populated by kids who aren't as interested in hearing picture books read out loud. The problem isn't that they're too old for Read-Alouds; many kids enjoy being read to until thirteen or fourteen (and we know some adults who like to be read to, as well!). The problem is the book!

By the time kids are old enough to read on their own, they might be able to read the text of a picture book in their heads faster than you can read it out loud to them. This can be frustrating and, frankly, boring for an older kid who's moving on to bigger and better reading materials, even if the pictures are interesting. 

Parents can solve this problem by reading ten or twenty minutes from a chapter book every day until the story is finished, but it's harder to do that in a Read-Aloud situation. In an article on, author Rob Reid gives a suggestion for how to handle having an audience with minds that are hankering for longer, more complex material than picture books. 

Ried's suggestions are aimed towards young people who "want to learn about themselves and their own place in the world." If you capture their attention with a segment from a chapter book, it might inspire them to pick up the book themselves!

See Ried's article for his segment suggestions, including selections from Ben and the Suddenly Too-Big Family by Colby Rodowsky and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

Here are some suggestions by TRC for selections from chapter books that could be read to an older group (ages 8-11):

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

This is a book that requires very little introduction! After explaining the basic premise (keep it simple: Harry Potter and his friend Ron are at a school for wizards called Hogwarts) read from chapter ten, 'Halloween'.

Start towards the end of the chapter, with "On Halloween morning they woke to the delicious smell..." (in the American paperback addition this is near the bottom of page 170) and read to the end of the chapter. This segment is about ten pages long and works for a few reasons: it shows Hogwarts students in Charms class, really highlighting Rowling's Hogwarts universe; it shows Harry and Ron and Hermione fighting a mountain troll and then becoming friends; and it works well as a self-contained story in that it resolves -- though the audience will definitely be left wondering what happens! 

Rascal by Sterling North

In Sterling North's largely autobiographical children's novel, the eleven-year-old protagonist becomes unlikely friends with a baby raccoon. He spends a year raising his new pet, named Rascal, and the book details the adventures they have together.

There is a memorable chapter where Sterling and Rascal enter (and win!) a pie eating contest together, and this segment would make a great Read-Aloud. Begin towards the middle of the "September" section of the book, with the sentence, "The most exciting event in Brailsford Junction each September was the Irish Picnic and Horse Fair..." (around page 119, give or take given the edition) and read until the section ends with "it was a delicious victory." No kid will be able to resist the image of a raccoon helping out in a pie-eating contest!

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Kids might be familiar with this title; the book is old but it was recently adapted into a film starring none other than the famous Selena Gomez. The introduction for the story is that Beezus Quimby is having trouble with her little sister, Ramona--something many kids might be able to identify with! 

In this short selection, Beezus is having a hard time on her birthday. Start at the beginning of chapter six, page 131 in our edition (pictured), with the very first sentence: "When Beezus came home from school on the afternoon of her tenth birthday..." and read through to (on our page 144) Aunt Beatrice's line: "What's an aunt for if she can't come to the rescue with a birthday cake once in a while?" The section ends on a positive note after ten pages of birthday cake drama. And what kid (or adult!) doesn't feel horrified at the idea of a ruined birthday cake? Everyone will enjoy watching Ramona's cake-antics--especially since Beezus comes out on top in the end with a wonderful birthday.

 The Enormous Crocodile, Esio Trot and The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, all by Roald Dahl.

These novels are short enough that you could conceivably read  the entirety of one in a Read-Aloud. They all feature pictures, too, so they're even shorter than they look.

If you read a segment of a book, round out the Read-Aloud by having a couple copies of the book in case kids want to hear some more of the story during small-group time, and have some picture books on similar topics in case the younger end of the age range want to look at those.

If you're a TRC volunteer and decide to try this out, let us know what book you're going to read segments of; we might be able to put some of the same title in the give-away book box for kids who are eager to continue the story! They might be big enough to read it on their own, or have a parent to read to them at home. And having a really good book that's a little too hard can be a great incentive to struggle through the difficulty.

Post by The Reading Connection intern Anna McCormally.

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