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, November 5, 2012

Read-Aloud planning made painless: Part 2

The last post explored different styles of Read-Aloud planning and communication.  Here, we cover components to planning a Read-Aloud. 

Why do we include games, crafts and other hands-on activities in a Read-Aloud program? Why don’t we just read with the kids for a full hour?
  • After a full day of school, it’s unrealistic to expect that a group of kids will sit still for 45 minutes while being read to.
  • Activities help kids connect what they’ve been reading with their own experiences and knowledge. They also build background knowledge about various subjects. When you provide relatedYou are building vocabulary, reading comprehension and motivation.

Here are some ideas to consider when planning an activity for your Read-Aloud:

Activities that include movement engage a different part of the brain and are more appealing to kinesthetic learners than sit-still kind of activities. Games (like "Telephone, " "I Spy," or "Duck, Duck, Goose") are a big hit. Songs and finger plays (think "Itsy-Bitsy Spider) work well with younger kids. Google is your friend. Type “kid's song” and your theme.

Activities that engage the senses (things to touch, look at, listen to, smell or taste) bring a theme to life for a child. Try to find something that will engage their senses beyond listening to and looking at books.  Doing a Read-Aloud about the beach? Bring shells and sand to touch and sea weed snacks to taste.

Activities can provide essential, first-time real-world experiences for a child. How can you create an experience for the kids? Many of our kids have never been camping, to a zoo, or on an airplane

Also, it’s always great to have an extra activity in your back pocket. Think about more than one kind of activity to engage different ages and interests. Games are good because they often require no materials. Again, Google is your friend. 

Usually we expect to spend between 20 and 25 minutes reading. That allows a few minutes for name tags, promises and getting settled, about 20 minutes for your activity and 10 minutes for choosing books. You can tinker with these numbers, but we’d ask that you don’t plan on cutting down on the reading time. Spending more time reading is always ok.

One way to expand your activity time is to conduct your activity and book choosing simultaneously. Have one volunteer set up the give-away books while the other volunteers work with the kids on the activity. Then send one or two kids at a time to choose their book and return to the activity.

Be aware that crafts often take longer than other activities. Prepare the materials in advance to maximize time for creativity. Allow enough time for kids to enjoy making their craft and use their imaginations. 

You can also do the activity at the beginning of the Read-Aloud. Especially if the kids are very excited, it might work better to get them engaged in the activity first and then read to them while they are working on a craft or project or after you have completed the activity.

Recycling Read-Alouds
Yes, please do! Please use the TRC Read-Aloud Idea Database for great theme ideas from fellow volunteers. Use themes from other sites or reuse popular themes from your own site if all your kids are new.

To update or refresh your theme, start with your book list. Check the library for any new or favorite titles on the theme that you may not have used before. Choose an activity that is different from the one you chose before.

Expand on or narrow the theme. If you did fairy tales before, this time you could do fractured or modern versions of fairy tales. If you did frogs, you could do amphibians. 

Keeping kids’ attention
Use small groups. We've said it before. We'll say it again.

Have age-appropriate expectations. Four-year olds can’t sit as long as bigger kids.  And even big kids are still kids!

Get the kids moving.  Don’t expect any of the kids to sit still for 25 minutes. With the little ones, break up reading with songs or finger plays. Use games and energizers to add movement to reading time with older kids if necessary. 

Use your volunteers strategically.  If one or two kids need more attention, give it to them by having volunteers read with them individually.

Creative and thorough planning can help a Read-Aloud run smoothly even when you get thrown some curves.  Think outside the box about activities and pay attention to possible timing issues to keep kids engaged.  Reuse or refresh popular themes to minimize leg-work and optimize fun!

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

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