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, March 25, 2013

STEM Read-Alouds: Volunteer Seminar overview

What do Lincoln Logs, sun dials, rockets, grizzly bears, rainbows and oobleck have in common? TRC volunteers found out at a volunteer seminar all about incorporating STEM topics into weekly Read-Alouds.

For the record, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. It is one of the hot topics in education circles these days, but TRC isn’t just being trendy by focusing on STEM. Here are good reasons for exploring science and math with books and activities:

First and foremost, it’s fun. Shooting rockets, making rainbows: that’s fun. TRC Read-Alouds are intended to help kids build positive experiences with books and reading. In many cases, we’re helping kids and families overcome anxieties or stereotypes about reading and readers just by having fun with books. What's more, STEM topics may appeal to kids who don’t get excited about more traditional Read-Aloud themes.

STEM-themed Read-Alouds can help kids overcome anxieties and stereotypes about math and science, too.  A kid may say she’s not good at math, but she does like baking. Baking is full of fractions, proportions, temperature and time. You start with a book about baking and the next thing you know, you are doing math, with a tasty result. When you put it that way, math is fun and delicious, not scary or boring. 

It’s not just fun and games, though. Science and math use many of the same skills as reading. In science, you predict, observe and evaluate. You make guesses, look for patterns and outcomes. Afterward, you circle back to evaluate. In math, you often make guesses and look for patterns. Reading involves the same process and skills. You also use your imagination and your background knowledge to predict what might happen in science, math and reading.

A great book can foster curiosity, imagination and creativity. These traits are essential for success in math and the sciences. A STEM-themed Read-Aloud isn’t about getting a certain predetermined result.  It’s about asking questions, exploration and reading great books. 

Check out these STEM-themed Read-Aloud outlines prepared by TRC staff. Books and activity materials were provided for the volunteers to use at the volunteer seminar. In each outline you'll find books, activities and conversation starters for your Read-Aloud.

Science:  States of Matter and Colors

Technology:  Rockets
Engineering:  Building Houses
Math:  Time and Measurement

Many of the books and materials listed on the outlines are available at the TRC office for volunteers to use at their Read-Alouds.

Next week's post will explore the great STEM Read-Aloud ideas generated by TRC volunteers and more resources for creating your own STEM-themed Read-Alouds.  

Get inspired. Try something new. Explore, wonder, imagine!  The kids will love it.

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

Monday, March 4, 2013

What Kids Want to Read - A Publisher's Perspective

What do kids want to read? The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney of course! Reading Connection kids have requested these books more than any other in the history of our Read-Aloud program. 

Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, often has the inside scoop about what kids want to read. Amulet was the first imprint to offer novels written entirely in instant messages (Lauren Myracle’s bestselling and often controversial TTYL series), and has been publishing modernized fairy tales long before TV got around to it (Michael Buckley’s bestselling The Sisters Grimm series). And if you haven’t heard of the mega-best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, you’ve been living on Mars.

Jason Wells with Laura Mihalick
ABRAMS publicity and marketing
Publicity and Marketing Director for Abrams Books for Young Readers/Amulet Books, and longtime friend to The Reading Connection, Jason Wells has promoted these smash hits as well as the bestselling Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger and long-running Babar series by Laurent de Brunhoff.  Jason talked with TRC recently about what kids like to read.

What did you like to read when you were a kid?
I read so much as a kid! My favorites were:  The Fire Brats series by by Barbara Siegel, Scott Siegel and Barbara Steiner.  It’s a post apocalyptic series featuring siblings who are trying survive in a radically changed America after World War III.

The Tim and Ginger books by Edward Artisane.  These are mild but fun adventures set in a seaside town—growing up near a shore, the lighthouses and references to low and high tides were easy to love. 

My great aunt gave me the We Were There series. They were brief books about historical events in the US.  Peppered with illustrations, the books were kind of early graphic novels.

You work the children’s book publishing and selling world.  What do kids want to read?
For kids who want to read, they will always find something. They don’t need me to tell them what to read. It’s the kids who don’t want to read that are the challenge. As recent trends suggest, kids clearly want to read novels with illustrations or fun activities that accompany them. From Abrams, the Origami Yoda books and Wimpy Kid books fit this fill nicely.

What do you think it is that has made some of your titles (like Wimpy Kid or Lauren Myracle’s books) such big hits?  Are there certain qualities in these books that are extraordinarily appealing to kids?
I think kids especially like books that their parents won’t want to read. Kinney’s Wimpy Kid books with cartoons and Myracle’s TTYL series written in instant messages offer kid-only appeal. As much as review attention and national media can help spread the word, once kids are hooked, the buzz that they create with their friends will help books find a wide audience to make them big hits.

What is your sleeper title at Abrams?  What is the one right now that will make it big once kids know about it? 
I think that would be Nathan Hales’ Hazardous Tales.  These books are modern day versions of the We Were There series I read as a kid.

What do you think will be Abram’s next big thing?
We have a new series coming out in 2014 by Jon Scieszka called Frank E. Stein. It should be pretty popular. 

How do you choose a book to give to a kid?
Ah the most important kids in my life are my two nephews. They are always clamoring to be in the know with Wimpy Kid developments, but I always bring them books they wouldn’t have found themselves. I try to choose books that will broaden their worlds, but that are fun. I don’t have a formula per se but I know it when I see it.

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