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 10, 2014

Engaging the older crowd

Hello? Am I getting through to you at all?

As a Read-Aloud volunteer for the past four years, I have often found myself asking that question, especially when it comes to holding the attention of some of the older kids. It’s not easy to keep them interested, focused and entertained. The good news is that they have pushed me to be a better volunteer and to stretch beyond the regular Read-Aloud routine. Here are a few things that I've learned.

Nonfiction books are a big draw for older kids. If you can find a subject they like and are knowledgeable about, you may just strike gold. I suggest taking a survey to see what topics interest the older kids. The more they feel involved in the process and the more you can empower them, the more likely they are to actively participate in a Read-Aloud. A few years ago, my reading team had a gifted boy who started acting out as he matured. He would interrupt the readings and instigate poor behavior in the other kids. I realized that he was simply bored. Once we honed in on the subjects he knew about and gave him the opportunity to share that knowledge with the group, we saw a dramatic change. Little did we know that he was a science wizard!

Older children love technology. It can be challenging to incorporate this, but if you are comfortable with it, sharing a video on an iPad or introducing a book on an e-reader can be an easy way to let the kids explore the theme and keep them engaged. On one occasion, my team used an iPad fireplace app to create a “campfire” setting for our outdoors theme. We also used an iPad to show videos of political speeches during a Read-Aloud about the upcoming presidential election. The kids not only ate it up, they also handled the device with great care. 

Kim leads kids at The Berkeley in a game of 
Ninja Simon Says.
Our team has also had success reaching older kids by choosing subjects that relate to their lives. If they can find parallels between the Read-Aloud topic and something they have actually experienced, you will see a more invested kid. That’s also why it is so important to take the time during the reading to talk about the book and to let the kids share some of their own stories. A few years ago we had some baseball players in our group. When we did a baseball theme to kick off spring, the players were delighted to tell us about their own triumphs and visits to the ballpark.

At The Berkeley Read-Alouds, we have a wide age range and often see kids aged 4 and 11 at the same session. Sometimes it helps to pair an older child with a younger one. Putting them in the position of role model or mentor can give that preteen a sense of responsibility and pride. Next time, try teaming up some of the kids during the activity portion of the Read-Aloud.

Finally, there is nothing more important than reinforcing good behavior. The more you can lift them up for doing something good, the more you will both enjoy your time together.

Guest blog post written by TRC volunteer Kim Oates.

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