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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

TRC Volunteer Central

Welcome to TRC's Volunteer Central! You can find it at

The design of this central volunteer portal has been driven by volunteers' wants and needs. Designed by Pariveda Solutions, TRC Volunteer Central is TRC volunteers' centralized system for 
interacting with fellow volunteers, viewing schedules, and planning and reporting Read-Alouds

The first time you log into the system, click the "Forgot your password?" button, then enter your email and a link to set your password will be sent to you. Create a password that you can remember and use that to log into the system.

All emails from TRC's Volunteer Central will come from Please add this email address to your list of safe senders.

Rosters and schedules

Once you log in to the system, the following information will be visible on your landing page:
  • Names and contact information for your team members and for all of the volunteers at your site,
  • Your team’s Read-Aloud schedule, as well as the schedule for your entire site for the next five months,
  • Contact information for TRC and Read-Aloud site staff and
  • Your volunteer hours for the month and year.

Beside each volunteer's name, both in the team listing and the full site listing, you'll find his or her email and preferred phone number. Below the full list is are buttons to email your entire team and print the roster or schedule. Clicking these links will open a new message in your default email program. The email addresses will be separated by commas. If you use Outlook, you can change the settings to allow it to accept commas separating email addresses.

Beside each Read-Aloud date, you'll find a "Notes" field where you can enter your selected theme or any comments for your teammates and fellow volunteers. There is also a button to cancel a Read-Aloud. If you cancel a Read-Aloud, you will be prompted to select a reason for cancellation.

You can see your team's full Read-Aloud schedule by clicking on the "Read-Alouds" menu and clicking on "Edit Read-Alouds." This will show all Read-Alouds for your team, both past and preset. You can edit the date range to only show future dates. If you'd like to see all Read-Alouds for your site, remove the team letter or number in the search field and click filter.
Submitting a Read-Aloud report

After each Read-Aloud, one volunteer must submit a Read-Aloud report using Volunteer Central within 3 days of their Read-Aloud. This will provide information to other TRC volunteers, TRC staff and site staff about your Read-Aloud.

1. Click the "Submit a Read-Aloud Form" button or select “Submit Read-Aloud” from the Read-Alouds menu.

2. Select your Read-Aloud location from the drop-down list.

3. Select the date of your Read-Aloud. Only Read-Alouds for which a report has not been submitted will appear as options.

4. The form appears with your team members already listed. If a volunteer was absent on the date on which you're reporting, remove him/her for that Read-Aloud by clicking on the “X” next to the volunteer's name. You can add a volunteer's name by typing it into the text area. Volunteers at your site will appear in the "Volunteer Attendance" box, and volunteers from other sites are listed under "Other Attendees."

5. Children attending your site are listed as well. When you click on a child's name, the circle surrounding the name will turn purple indicating that he or she attended the Read-Aloud. 

6. To add a new child to the program, click the “Add New Child” link and fill out the requested information in the pop-up window. If there were multiple new children, click "Save & Close" and you'll be given the opportunity to add another child.

7. Enter your theme into the theme field. If your theme is not listed, create a new theme and fill out the requested information, just as you did for creating new children. The same applies to books and activities. 

8. Fill in the remaining information requested about your Read-Aloud and click “Submit Report.” Your report will automatically be sent to the TRC program manager, Read-Aloud site staff and the other volunteers at your site.

Searching for a Read-Aloud theme

The database contains a bank of themes collected from your Read-Alouds, Reading Road Maps and culled from great Read-Alouds from the past several years. 

To search for a theme for your next Read-Aloud, click the "Find Ideas for an Upcoming Read-Aloud" button, or select “Read-Aloud Themes List” from the Read-Alouds menu.  Themes that have a Reading Road Map are indicated on the second column. When you click on that theme, you'll find a purple Reading Road Map link that will take you to a printable PDF of the information.

You can also search recent Read-Alouds that have been held at your site or at other sites by selecting "Recent Read-Alouds" in the Read-Aloud menu. The system will default to show only your site, but you can select all sites to see  themes from other sites. Selecting the date will bring you to the report summary of that Read-Aloud. Selecting the theme will take you to a compilation of books and activities used with that theme.

Edit Personal Information

You can update your personal information by clicking "View/Edit Personal Information" in the header.

There you can update your password, add your preferred phone numbers and birthday so that we can wish you a happy birthday.


If you come across any issues with the site, such as inability to access the system, errors updating information or with problems submitting Read-Aloud data, please submit a ticket through our bug submission form and we will get the issue fixed as soon as possible. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Read-Aloud outlines

School is out and kids are set to celebrate! But that doesn't mean it is time to stop learning. Summer vacation allows kids the time to explore new things and new places -- going to the beach, visiting the zoo,watching a soccer game or many other possibilities. Unfortunately, not all families have the resources or the time to go on these adventures.

Fewer resources doesn't mean that kids have to miss out on fun experiences that also build their knowledge base. Books and a well-planned Read-Aloud can make these adventures easily accessible. 

Here are some great options for exploring something new with the kids at your Read-Aloud this summer.

Animals and animal homes

Some animals come out in full force in the summertime (fireflies and bats, for example). Why not read about different ecosystems and the animals that live in each?

Ocean Animals
Nocturnal Animals

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and run around. This summer, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil provides a great hook for a soccer Read-Aloud. Cycling, swimming and running are also popular summer sports. 

Summer Sports
Running and Racing

New Places

Why stay at home over summer vacation if you can go on a trip to the beach, Europe or another planet?  Can't actually make the trip? Travel somewhere new through books! There are so many things to learn by exploring new places.

Paris and France


Summer is all about the temperature heating up and people and animals finding ways to cool down. Sometimes that heat brings thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes. Explore the science behind the weather and what it means to endure it or embrace it.

Extreme Weather


Gardens are blooming with fruits and vegetables in summer. Try to find a garden near your site and see if the kids can name the different vegetables growing there. Gather some ingredients and make tasty dishes. Cooking is a great gateway to talk to kids about measurement and nutrition.

Chefs and Cooking

Types of books

Exploring books that feature interesting design or word play can excite kids at your Read-Aloud. Some books have no words at all. Allowing the kids to tell the story through the illustrations really gets their creative juices flowing. Other books feature figures of speech that make hearing the book read aloud extra fun. Some authors have written so many great books that you can devote an entire Read-Aloud to their work.

Wordless Books
Doreen Cronin

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Freedom Summer

Try to see it from a kid’s point of view. School is NOT in session. The days are long, warm and sunny. There’s finally time for TV, video games, bike rides, swimming and theme parks. Summer feels like freedom to kids. 

Educators and years of research tell us that there’s a cost for that freedom: students falling behind. 

The stakes are high. According to the National Summer Learning Association “more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.”

So what can we do to let kids keep their freedom without the cost of summer learning loss?

Snappy headlines like Parents: Preventing Summer Slide (on a Budget) or 74 Creative Ways to Stop Summer Brain Drain seem to insist that we can easily do something to keep kids from falling behind. In reality we know it is not that easy, especially when reading may not be a favorite thing to do or kids just aren’t interested in the trip to the museum or keeping a journal. 

Start by finding out what kids really want to do this summer. So much advice for parents focuses on what parents would like to do with kids or what parents think kids should do during the summer months. Try not to let your nostalgia for camping interfere with your child’s desire to learn to code

Find out why reading is not a favorite activity. If kids are really miserable about reading, find out why. Talking honestly with kids might make them more passionate readers.

Drop your preconceptions of what reading is. Just because the school or library recommended reading list is filled with book titles, that doesn’t mean that a child who is thoroughly engaged instead by online news articles, magazines, comic books, recipes or even trading cards isn’t reading. Really talk to your kids about what they are reading — no matter what it is — and help them feel validated as readers even when their reading material of choice is not a book.

Read aloud. Again, it doesn’t have to be a book. Reading together offers many opportunities to talk, talk, talk about what you’ve read. If you aren’t comfortable reading aloud, try listening to an audio book together. And make sure that you are visibly doing your own reading. We can’t expect kids to see the value of reading if adults are modeling something different.

Let kids explore. That always sounds like such a great idea. Turn kids loose
and they will magically find things that interest them. If kids were good at exploring, you wouldn’t be hearing “I’m bored” so often. Check in with them about the things that seem energize them, like caring for a pet, a little karaoke or baking cookies with friends. Those are leads to explore further. You also have to show them what’s out there in the world — and not just the things you are interested in or what you think kids are interested in, but the real unknowns. Just because a young girl loves pink and coming up with new hairstyles for dolls, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t love to spend time looking at cells under a microscope.

Go to the library. Preserving kids’ freedom doesn’t preclude trips to the library. In fact, the library is actually kids’ greatest opportunity for choice. Local public libraries have books, audio books, magazines, newspapers, access to online resources, free Internet access, clubs, opportunities to read to dogs and more, including events and programs that encourage and reward reading. Check out: Arlington Public Library Summer Reading, Alexandria Library's SummerQuest,  SummerQuest Jr. and  "Spark a Reaction" Teen Reading Challenge. For a canine flair, try Arlington Public Library's "Paws to Read" program and Fairfax County Public Library “Paws to Read." DC Public Library has teamed up with the Washington Nationals to offer summer reading for readers of all ages.

Seek advice. If the long lists of parent ideas aren’t cutting it, a teacher or librarian would be happy to make suggestions for some summer learning fun. There are also Web-based resources that can guide you with reading recommendations and activity ideas that won’t have you spending half your summer at the craft store. Try Start with a Book for fun and meaningful interactions around books and things of kid interest. Sign up for Camp Wonderoplis and head online for exciting scientific explorations. Or pursue a reading challenge together with Scholastic, Barnes and Noble or BOOK IT!

Summer is important for learning, but it can be a different kind of education. It can be about learning to make choices, try new things, and finding and exploring new interests. Once kids realize there are no worksheets involved, they’ll see that books and reading were made for this kind of summer learning. They can linger in the barn with Charlotte and Wilbur, get inside the head of Albert Einstein or George Washington Carver, feel free to laugh louder at Captain Underpants, Walter the Farting Dog and Timmy Failure. They can have more chances to think more deeply about the world and their place in it.

Guest blog post by TRC Advisory Council member and Belle of the Book, Rachael Walker.

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