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, August 27, 2012

A super Read-Aloud about superheros!

There are few things that little boys (and girls) get more excited about than superheroes. Superheroes in books come in all shapes and sizes and are not limited to the ones created in comic books. There are books about super sisters, super animals and super athletes.

We took this topic for a recent Read-Aloud.  We started out with Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz about a boy who gains super powers when his mother mends his pajamas. He uses his new-found powers to help those in need including a princess, an old woman and a crew of sailors. This sparked a good discussion of types of powers one could have and how to best use them for good.  We even talked about Olympic athletes and how they are like superheroes.

Timothy and the Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz
Supersister by Beth Cadena
Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer
Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis
Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod
Charlie's Superhero Underpants by Lee Wildish
Super Guinea Pig to the Rescue by Udo Weigelt
Superduck by Jez Alborough
Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel by Ralph Cosentino

For our activity, we made superhero masks and arm cuffs. We did some preparation beforehand to make this work with a younger age group, but most of it could be done onsite as well.

We used the four mask templates found here.  If your printer takes construction paper, print the templates right onto construction paper in a variety of colors. You could also print the templates on white paper and let the kids color them. We cut out the masks, including the eye holes, to save time, but that could be done by the kids if they're old enough.  

We used a hole punch and ribbon to attach the masks.  It worked really well to have a long piece of ribbon already tied on to one side.  When the child put on the mask, an adult tied the ribbon through the other hole, fitting the mask to the child's head. This process allowed for some one-on-one discussion time as well.

We also made wrist cuffs. These were simply toilet paper rolls with a slice down the middle. We curved the edges at one end to keep them from poking our hands, but that step is not absolutely necessary. The instructions for this project came from this site. We simplified things and the kids decorated cuffs and masks with markers.  

While the kids picked out their books, we asked each about his/her superpower(s). The kids were excited to share their invented powers and all walked away proudly wearing their new gear.

Don't forget to make a mask for yourself!

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just the facts, please! Using nonfiction books in your Read-Aloud

Usually, when folks think about reading aloud to a child, they think of favorite story books:  Madeline, Where the Wild Things Are, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. In a word, fiction. But nonfiction is wildly popular with kids. It feeds their need to know why and how and who. It helps kids make connections between fictional situations and the real world.

Nonfiction opens up so many options not available if you stick only to fiction. A large part of a library's collection is devoted to nonfiction, including science, history, math, poetry, folklore and fairy tales, biography, how-to books and atlases and almanacs.  Ask your children’s librarian for nonfiction titles about your Read-Aloud topic and you’ll be amazed at what he or she pulls off the shelf.

Publishers have created some excellent nonfiction series. The Let’s Read and Find Out series has more than 190 titles in an accessible, illustrated picture-book format. Its Stage 1 titles are appropriate for preschool- and kindergarten-age children. Their Stage 2 titles are written for kids ages 5 to 9. The Scientists in the Field series combines stunning photographs with engaging text that explores both science and what it is like to be a scientist. This series is appropriate for the 8- to 12-year-old crowd. DK publishes oodles of nonfiction in picture-book and early-reader formats with glossy photos and short catchy text. Their DK Readers and Eyewitness books will have titles appropriate for all ages at your Read-Aloud.  Chances are, whatever topic you have in mind, DK has published a book about it. 

Some of our favorite nonfiction authors include Steve Jenkins, Gail Gibbons, Seymour Simon, David Macaulay and Russell Freedman. Their books are carefully researched, well written and beautifully illustrated.

The design of nonfiction books is likely to be more complex than fictional picture books. You'll even find nonfiction titles in graphic novel fomat--always a hit with the kids. Innovative design can make nonfiction books more engaging for kids, but it can also make them more challenging to read to a large group. If you choose a nonfiction title to read aloud with a large group, be sure to choose one that has a simple narrative format instead of a reference-book format. For reading in smaller groups or one-on-one, feel free to use a title with more text or a reference-book format. Depending on the design of the book, you might need to read it differently than you’d read a fictional picture book. For example: instead of reading the book from front to back, use the index and table of contents to jump around and answer kids’ pressing questions. PBS's Reading Rockets website provides great tips for reading nonfiction with kids in this article. 

Nonfiction can add so much to a Read-Aloud:  depth, variety and fun.  Try it, you'll like it!

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