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, September 4, 2012

Get in on the ground floor: early literacy development at your Read-Aloud

Reading research demonstrates that literacy learning starts at birth. Crucial components of reading skills are built long before a child starts school, mostly by adults talking with young children, reading to them and providing them with lots of experiences.

Fortunately, very young children are champs at absorbing these important concepts and skills they’ll need later on. They just need a grown-up to show them. If I child doesn’t learn these concepts and skills before school starts, he’s going to be playing catch-up for a while. And even as kids are catching their stride as independent readers, practicing these early literacy skills strengthens their abilities. 

Here are the cornerstones of early literacy development and some ways to incorporate them into your Read-Aloud or a reading experience with a child in your life. 


Understanding what you read requires a large vocabulary, lots of experiences in the world and the abilities to both predict what will happen next and to connect what you are reading with your life experiences. 

Every new word a child learns and every experience a child has are money in the bank that he can draw on to help him understand as he reads or listens to a new text. The bigger the vocabulary and the more life experiences, the bigger the “account” from which to draw. 

To develop comprehension skills at your Read-Aloud, choose books with unusual words and take the time to talk with the kids about what those words mean. Choose books with a repetitive or predictable structure and pause while you are reading to let the kids practice predicting what will happen next. 
Some books, such as Who Hops? by Katie Davis, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Jr. and many books by Jan Brett include hints and questions to help kids guess what will come next. Encourage the kids to make connections between the book and their own experiences. Model these skills by saying things like “I wonder what that word means.” or “Gee—what will happen next. Maybe…” or “Oh, this reminds me of the time when I …”

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness means being aware that letters have sounds associated with them and words are a combination of those sounds. Children’s books are the perfect tools for helping kids become aware of letter and word sounds because so many of them have great rhyme, alliteration and rhythm. 

Rhyme and alliteration help kids learn about the sounds that letters make. Rhythm helps kids recognize words, syllables and the sounds they make. Nursery rhymes are also a great way to teach these skills since they include rhyme and often incorporate hand motions that illustrate the text.
"Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they are eight."  -- Mem Fox, Reading Magic.

Why? Because nursery rhymes have great rhyme, rhythm and alliteration.

To build phonological awareness at your Read-Aloud, choose books with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration (words all starting with the same sound.) Encourage the kids to finish rhymes when you pause, clap out rhythms and name other words that rhyme or start with the same sound.  Try pairing a book with an associated nursery rhyme. Teach younger kids the words and help them sing along.

Alphabetic Principle

Letters are just symbols. They are shapes that have sounds associated with them. Developing this concept requires helping kids recognize letters, name them and learn the sounds that are associated with them.
Read ABC books and books with alliteration with the kids. Encourage the kids to point out letters they recognize and to make the different sounds letters make. A recent story on NPR tells of a study that found that asking kids to identify letters on a page in a story helped their reading skills even several years later.

Concepts about print

Simply put, it’s understanding how books work. Any book will do. 

Help the child identify parts of the book (cover, spine, title page, author and illustrator), orient the books for reading (right side up), understand the direction of text (in English, we read left to right) and distinguish words from pictures. 

Reading research has identified the four concepts above as the cornerstones of early literacy development.  I’d add one more:  delight in books and reading.  Developing positive feelings about books and reading are also essential to becoming a life-long reader. So be sure to keep your Read-Alouds fun. You’ll be helping create readers from the bottom up!

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

1 comment:

  1. Teach Your Child to Read Today!

    Reading is one of the most important skills one must master to succeed in life. It helps your child succeed in school, helps them build self-confidence, and helps to motivate your child. Being able to read will help your child learn more about the world, understand directions on signs and warnings on labels, allow them to discover reading as an entertainment, and help them gather information.

    Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a young age - even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything. They are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see, and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.

    At what age can you start teaching a child to read? When they're babies? At 2 years old, 3, 4, or 5 years old, or wait until they're in school?

    If you delay your child's reading skill development until he or she enters school, you are putting your child at risk...

    Did you know that 67% of all Grade 4 students cannot read at a proficient level! According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, of those 67%, 33% read at just the BASIC level, and 34% CANNOT even achieve reading abilities of the lowest basic level!

    There is a super simple and extremely effective system that will even teach 2 and 3 year old children to read.

    This is a unique reading program developed by two amazing parents and reading teachers, Jim and Elena, who successfully taught their four children to read before turning 3 years old. The reading system they developed is so effective that by the time their daughter was just 4 years 2 months old, she was already reading at a grade 3 level. They have videos to prove it.

    >> Click here to watch the videos and learn more.

    Their reading system is called Children Learning Reading, and it is nothing like the infomercials you see on TV, showing babies appearing to read, but who have only learned to memorize a few word shapes. This is a program that will teach your child to effectively decode and read phonetically. It will give your child a big head start, and allow you to teach your child to read and help your child develop reading skills years ahead of similar aged children.

    This is not a quick fix solution where you put your child in front of the TV or computer for hours and hope that your child learns to "read"... somehow...

    This is a reading program that requires you, the parent, to be involved. But the results are absolutely amazing. Thousands of parents have used the Children Learning Reading program to successfully teach their children to read.

    All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day.

    >> Click here to get started right now. How to Teach a 2 or 3 Year Old to Read.