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, December 14, 2015

Activities for multi-age Read-Alouds

When trying to keep kids of a variety of ages engaged at your Read-Aloud, the books you choose play a major role, but so do the activities you include. Planning activities that meet the developmental needs of all the kids at your Read-Aloud, while not requiring extra work, can make all the difference. 

Here are some ideas for activities to intrigue and delight all the kids at your Read-Aloud.

Open-ended crafts

If you like to do crafts with the kids at your Read-Aloud, plan simple open-ended ones that allow each kid to create her own product that's as simple or as complex as she wishes.

For example, a Read-Aloud about butterflies could include coffee filter butterflies. Each child gets a coffee filter and a pipe cleaner to make the butterfly. Using markers, the child can decorate the filter any way she likes. 

The kids can make dinosaurs, robots or anything else with pipe cleaners, clay or found objects like recyclables or rocks and sticks. Try a Google search for your theme and the materials you'd like to use: "found object robot craft for kids" for instructions.

Tracing the outline of his body on a big piece of paper and then handing over the markers is a perfect springboard for kids to create their own drawing for a Read-Aloud about autobiographies, the human body, super heroes, Halloween costumes or winter (and getting dressed to go outside). It can also become a self-portrait. 

The humble toilet paper tube is an excellent vehicle for open-ended crafts. A blog post from January 2015 chronicles different Read-Alouds that use toilet paper or paper towel tubes for crafts and activities that delight young and old. 

Get moving!

While little kids may need, developmentally, to move around more than bigger kids, incorporating movement in your Read-Aloud will be popular with kids of all ages. Keep in mind that they’ve probably been sitting still all day at school and would welcome the opportunity to move around.

Include movement in any Read-Aloud, regardless of theme, by encouraging kids to act out the stories being read or playing charades based on words or characters from the books you’ve read. Singing theme-related songs with movements or finger plays help the little ones get the wiggles out. Including an energizer or two during your session can help channel energy and engage kids who learn best by moving. Stretching or yoga at the beginning or during a Read-Aloud can relax and center the kids.

Another way to get the kids moving is to choose a Read-Aloud theme that is, by its very nature, active. Try a Read-Aloud about soccer, running, dance, teamwork or ninjas. Even a Read-Aloud about cooking or painting get hands and brains working. 

Appeal to the senses

Everyone, regardless of age, experiences the world through her senses. When you include sensory experiences in your Read-Aloud, you create the opportunity for each kid to have a concrete, physical encounter with the theme. As you are planning your Read-Aloud, think about ways you can include a sensory experience. Here are some examples.

A rain forest Read-Aloud could include a tray of common rain forest food products for kids to see and smell.

A beach Read-Aloud could have sand, shells, beach towels and balls for the kids to see and touch, seaweed to taste and sunscreen to smell.

A cooking or baking Read-Aloud could have ingredients for kids to see, smell and touch, cooking tools to see and touch and cooked or baked items for tasting. 

Real-world experiences

Reading comprehension correlates strongly to background knowledge. Kids build background knowledge by having experiences that build vocabulary and understanding of new ideas and situations. Yet, many at-risk kids lack opportunities to experience the wide variety of opportunities that are common for their more affluent peers. Playing an instrument or going to the beach may be experiences TRC kids have never had.

Providing real-world experiences at your Read-Aloud allows kids to a learn about a new concept in an authentic, hands-on way. Here are three examples of Read-Alouds where volunteers re-created real-world experiences.

Camping: set up a tent and bring in backpacks, flashlights and hiking boots. Make s’mores and shadow puppets.

Running and races: set up a short course outside, make bib numbers for every kid, warm up and then go for a run. The kids can decorate medals at the end.

Air travel: set up chairs or carpet squares like a plane, distribute boarding passes, go through security, find seats and hear the safety briefing (TRC promises). Then provide in-flight entertainment (read aloud) and refreshments, exit plane and retrieve bag (choose a book).

TRC has books and materials for each of these real-world Read-Alouds that you can use.

Activities to use with good multi-age books

Finally, here are some flexible activities that work well with the kinds of books -- wordless and interactive books, poetry, and fairy and folk tales -- that we explored in our last blog post about multi-age Read-Alouds.

Wordless books naturally lead into playing charades, encouraging the kids to take turns telling what is happening in the pictures or making flip books or pictures.

To extend an interactive book you could use a touch bag for kids to experience different textures, make lift-the-flap books, encourage the kids to act out the stories or choose their course in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Poetry lends itself to open-ended activities that work in multi-age groups.

Write short, simple poems together, such as acrostic poems, limericks or haiku.
Play rhyming games.
Teach little kids rhyming songs and finger plays.
For older kids, adapt poems or songs they know with new words.

Activities that work well with fairy and folk tales include the following:

Read different versions of the same fairy or folk tale and have the kids vote on their favorite.
After reading some fairy or folk tales, have the kids break into groups and act them out.
Older kids could make their own fractured fairy tales or folk tales (new, zany versions that are adapted from the original).
Many of the stories are repetitive or depend on sequence for their structure. Encourage the kids to make or use sequence cards you provide to retell the story. Search online for free sequence cards for the story of your choice or encourage kids to draw their own.

For more information, here are links to related blog posts and Reading Road Maps:

Movement and Energizers
More movement for more focus 7/15/2013
Moved by books 4/20/2015
Get moving! 5/29/2012
Get up and dance 2/3/2014
Use yoga to help kids focus at Read-Alouds 11/25/2013

Reading Road Maps
Summer Read-Aloud outlines 6/23/2014 (cooking, wordless books, rain forests, soccer, running and racing)

Read-Aloud planning advice from the experts – TRC volunteers 10/18/2011 (teamwork, cooking, soccer, wordless books, world records)

Air travel

When you include flexible activities that encourage creativity, incorporate movement, appeal to the senses or relate to real-world experiences, you meet the developmental needs of all the kids at your Read-Aloud and allow them to experience how fun reading can be.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book strategies and planning tips for a multi-age Read-Aloud

Our most recent volunteer seminar tackled the often-asked question, “How can I keep everyone engaged when I have kids from a wide range of ages at my Read-Aloud?”

Meeting the needs and interests of all the kids at your Read-Aloud can be tricky, especially when you have a group ranging from tots to tweens. Careful planning, including choosing the right books, is critical to success.  Here are some tips and strategies to try with age-diverse groups.

Pick Read-Aloud topics that have wide age appeal 

Broader themes tend to work better because you have a wider range of books to choose from and because you can find an aspect of the theme that will appeal to young and old. For example, monsters, dinosaurs, music, wordless books or universal experiences (like birthdays or going to school) work well.

Not as good are very specific themes, like Christopher Columbus (or another specific famous person), unless you can find great books for all ages. Teddy bears isn’t as good a theme as bears in general because an older kid is less likely to be interested in teddy bears, but might like grizzly, polar or koala bears. (Yes, I know a koala isn’t actually a bear, but that could be an interesting discussion at your Read-Aloud.)

Don't expect all the kids at any Read-Aloud to want to, or be able to, listen to the same books. You may find one or two that will work well for the whole group, but be prepared with a variety of books that will appeal to different age groups and interests. That being said, there are a few genres of books that have the flexibility to be used with a variety of ages.

Wordless books and interactive books

Wordless books work well with a wide age range because they are highly visual. “Read” the pictures with the kids to create the story. You can add as much “text” as is appropriate for your listeners. Unspoken is a book about a young girl's experience with a mysterious person hiding in her corn crib that can lead to a conversation about secrets, hospitality, courage or the Underground Railroad, depending on the interests and sophistication of the audience.

Interactive books are books that have some feature that engages the kids beyond a regular picture book, either by encouraging movement, touch, verbal or mental interaction, or with their graphic design.  Books with flaps, textures, sounds or pop-ups are interactive books, as are search-and-find books, like Where's Waldo, or books where you get to choose the course of the story, like Choose Your Own Adventure books. Press Here is a simple picture book where the reader seemingly makes the illustrations change by following directions.


Poetry works well with a cross-section of ages because much of it relies on rhyme and meter and it is quick and fun. Some poems are very short, some are silly and some are serious, making it easy to find different poems to suit the various kids at your group. Try song lyrics in a poetry Read-Aloud, too.

Shel Silverstein is a favorite for all ages. His funny poems capture everyday experiences with rhymes to please the little ones, word play for the elementary school-aged set and wit (and sometimes a little edge) for the tweens and teens in your group.

Fairy and folk tales

Fairy and folk tales work well with different ages because they come from an oral tradition. Their basic familiar structure, often including repetition, naturally allows you to tell the story in a simple way or a more elaborate way, depending on the sophistication of the listener. For generations, storytellers have embellished or streamlined the same stories to fit the occasion and their listening audience. Thankfully, many picture book authors and illustrators have done the same thing, creating many versions of the same basic story.

Many kids are familiar with some fairy or folk tales, so the stories engage their background knowledge and allow them to make up their own versions or retellings. Fractured fairy tales -- unusual twists on the original story -- are great fun with older kids who appreciate how they differ from the original. Many cultures have versions of the some basic tales adapted for their traditions, allowing for a multicultural angle.

A word of caution: Be sure to read all the versions you choose all the way through BEFORE you take them to the Read-Aloud. They may contain twists or content that you don’t want to bring up.

For more information, here are some links to related blog posts and Reading Road Maps:

Rhyme time! 3/31/2014

Wordless books

By choosing Read-Aloud themes and books that are well suited to multi-age groups, you'll be well on your way to a fun and story-filled experience for everyone. Our next blog post will explore activities that include movement or encourage creativity that work especially well with a variety of ages.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Read-Aloud planning tools

Planning a great Read-Aloud is the secret to having a great time with the kids, but we know that it can be a challenge.  We last focused on this process, in-depth, in posts from 2012. We’re revisiting those posts with some added resources to make your Read-Aloud planning a snap.

Visit TRC’s office

TRC has more than 1,000 books, activity and craft supplies, and outlines for dozens of Read-Alouds at our office.  

You can search our catalog online using LibraryThing to see if we have books you’d like to borrow for your Read-Aloud. Books are listed by title, but you can also search by key word. 

We also have premade Read-Aloud Kits from last summer’s We Are Readers program on 
Nocturnal animals
The beach

And we have materials to support Read-Alouds on math and zookeepers.

You are welcome to come any time to use these supplies and ask TRC staff for help planning, but we’ve scheduled a Read-Aloud Planning Open House for January 20, 2016, from 5 to 8 p.m. at our new office (1501 Lee Highway, Suite 170, Arlington, VA  22209). 

Recycle your Read-Aloud themes?

Yes, please do! Please use the TRC Read-Aloud Idea Database on Volunteer Central (see below) 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. Using Volunteer Central to see what other teams at your site have done recently can help prevent duplication.

  • 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.  

Volunteer Central

TRC’s volunteer database contains a bank of themes collected from your Read-Alouds and Reading Road Maps compiled over the past several years. 

To search for a theme for your next Read-Aloud,

  • Log in to Volunteer Central.
  • 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.
  • Click on that theme. You'll find a description of the Read-Aloud and where it was conducted and 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, which will bring you to the report summary of that Read-Aloud.
  • Selecting the theme, which will take you to a compilation of books and activities used with that theme.

TRC’s blog

Sometimes TRC posts about homelessness, poverty or upcoming events, but most of our blog posts have to do with Read-Aloud planning or management. We feature stand-out Read-Alouds created by our volunteers; feature authors, genres and popular themes; and offer craft, activity and snack ideas.  We usually post every other week, so there’s always something new, and the blog has a search feature to help you find specific information.

Reading Road Maps

These outlines for Read-Alouds are designed to cover all the bases: books for different ages, activities, conversation points and movement ideas all related to a theme. They come to your email inbox every other month and are banked in Volunteer Central for your reference.

Other resources

Your local library and children's librarians can offer many ideas for Read-Alouds, but if you'd like more specific book lists, check out WorldCat, an online catalog of books available in libraries all around the world. TRC has its own book lists, and you can also search for specific titles at all the libraries near you.

If you'd like complete theme ideas, take a look at Start With a Book.  Start With a Book provides book lists and activities on themes for kids from pre-k through third grade.

TRC wants Read-Alouds to be fun...

for the kids and for our volunteers. So please, don't feel like you have do it all on your own. Take advantage of our Read-Aloud planning resources.

Happy Reading!

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

Not your granny's hand print turkey: Non-traditional Thanksgiving crafts

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, but the kids at your Read-Aloud will thank you for a new spin on old Thanksgiving crafts. We're reposting an excellent piece on the topic from 2012 to help you with your November Read-Aloud planning.

A Read-Aloud volunteer recounted that last year the kids whooped and hollered when they found out they weren't making hand-print turkeys as the craft at their Thanksgiving-themed Read-Aloud. Kids prepare for Thanksgiving at school and in other programming throughout the month of November, so chances are they've already done hand-print turkeys or that other classic craft you pull out every year. To help you mix things up a bit this year, we've provided several non-traditional Thanksgiving crafts.

Pilgrim hats:  Pilgrims often get overlooked in the realm of Thanksgiving crafts. This easy activity turns black cups into Pilgrim hats. They can also be turned into name cards by writing a person's name on the black circle. Kids may want to make one for everyone coming to their Thanksgiving meal.
Source: Origami Owls

Finger print turkeys:  Take the hand-print turkey in another direction by just using fingerprints. Offer several different colored ink pads to give the feathers variation. The instructions provide details on making front-facing and side-facing turkeys. Add some scenery around the turkey when it's all finished. 
Source: The Charmed Mom 

Pine cone crayon-holder turkeys:  Gather enough pine cones so that each child will have one. Transform the pine cone into a turkey by adding a face and feet using construction paper. The feet can be made by cutting out a heart and gluing it to the bottom of the pine cone. Tacky glue will probably work best for this project. The turkey's feathers are made by inserting crayons into the pine cone. Let the children choose their colors and let them take their turkey and crayons home.  
Source: Amanda's Parties to Go

Leaf turkeys Collect some fallen leaves and glue them to circles of cardstock to make the feathers. Cut circles out of two large leaves for the head and body. Add eyes and a beak and you've got a very natural turkey! 
Source: My Creative Stirrings

Paper plate turkey faces This is an easy craft for a young crowd. Kids can choose whichever colors suit them for the "feathers." The instructions say to use paint, but markers or crayons will work just as well. 
Source: Preschool Crafts for Kids

Pair any of these crafts with a great Thanksgiving book such as Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Get out the vote! Election Read-Alouds

It's election time again. The news is full of election antics from candidates running for dog catcher to president. We're reposting a piece from October 2012 that describes an excellent election-themed Read-Aloud at Woodbury Park. Here's a short video of a bit of the Read-Aloud:

One of the things that makes this an especially good Read-Aloud is that the volunteers created an activity allowing the kids to experience the ins and outs of voting firsthand, and they made the activity meaningful by using the results of their elections to determine future Read-Aloud snacks and themes.

Doing a Read-Aloud on elections is a great way to connect what the kids are hearing about in the real world with books, reading and fun activities. 

Here's the 2012 post: 

In anticipation of Election Day, we organized a theme around elections, voting and democracy. We began the session by discussing ways in which the children already get to vote, whether for their favorite food at home, for a class representative at school or about what to do with their friends. 

We first read Duck for President by Doreen Cronin, in which Duck is tired of doing his farm chores so he holds elections to take over the farm from Farmer Brown. In an entertaining story, Duck continues to run for higher and higher office to redress certain grievances.  

We also read Max for President by Jarrett Krosoczka. Max and Kelly decide they both want to be class president in a tale about election processes and compromise.  

And finally, we read Otto Runs for President by Rosemary Wells.  It presents a similar theme of class elections, but shows what happens in a “race to the bottom” filled with unrealistic campaign promises. 

Other election books we brought to the Read-Aloud included: 
Vote! by Eileen Christelow
If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier
Larue for Mayor by Mark Teague
I Could Do That! by Esther Morris
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
Woodrow, the White House Mouse by Peter and Cheryl Barnes
Clifford for President by Acton Figueroa
My Teacher for President by Kay Winters
D is for Democracy by Elissa Grodin
Why Are Elections Important? by Jacqueline Laks Gorman
Voting in an Election by John Hamilton

We then demonstrated democracy in action by voting at multiple polling stations. To prepare for the voting, every child made a Voter Identification card and every volunteer an Election Official card. The children wrote their names on preprinted identification cards, then hole-punched them and tied a yarn “lanyard” through them. At the same time, the Central Election Official also set up three separate tables for polling places

When everyone had their IDs, we divided the kids into three groups and assigned the voters and election monitors to their first polling place. To be successful, following directions was important, much like in real-life voting. The volunteers helped the children understand the question they were voting on and the procedure for voting at each station. 

At each station, the election monitors checked the voter IDs, verified that each child had not already voted, explained the voting question and helped the children cast their vote.  

At the first polling place, the children marked a paper ballot and deposited it in a box. At the second, a marble was added to the jar representing their vote and at the third, the voters selected from multiple options on a computer. The team used this last vote as a way of determining the interest level in certain topics we were considering for future Read-Alouds. 

About every 5 minutes, once everyone had voted at their polling place, the Central Election Official called time and each group moved to the next polling place. After everyone had voted at all of polling places, the volunteers and one or two Deputy Monitors tallied the vote, and then the deputies delivered the official results to the Central Election Official. 

We then discussed the differences among the voting methods, revealed the overall results to all the children on a white board, and informed them that they (unknowingly) had voted for a treat at a future Read-Aloud (the snack choice vote). 

Everyone really enjoyed the voting. It was entertaining to see the children and volunteers take their roles seriously and to watch the children try to influence each other.  

Guest blog post written by Jason Dutil, volunteer at Woodbury Park.

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Readers Come in All Languages

Learning to speak a new language is hard. So is learning to read. Trying to do both at the same time is doubly challenging. Understandably, this situation can end up crushing a kid's motivation and love of learning. 

The Reading Connection serves many kids who speak a language other than English at home and who may be developing their English language and reading skills at the same time. Our goal is to boost their reading motivation and fuel their love of learning, so we need to be mindful of their situation.

Feel Dumb
[My teacher] points to me, then to the letters of the English alphabet.
I say A, B, C and so on...
[My teacher] points to the numbers along the wall.
I count up to twenty...
I'm furious, unable to explain I already learned fractions and how to purify river water.
So this is what dumb feels like.
I hate, hate, hate it.

--Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
English language learners make up the fastest growing population of students in U. S. schools. How can you help English language learners become enthusiastic, motivated readers while building their new language skills at the same time? Here are a few ways to support literacy development for these kids.

Slow down and ante up

English language learners frequently coming from under-resourced communities and have to do much more with less. Under-resourced communities have fewer books available for kids, and the kids living there may also have fewer chances to build the background knowledge and vocabulary that will help them with reading comprehension. That's the "less." English language learners are also working not just to learn to read and write, but to do so (and also to speak and think) in at least two languages. That's the "more." 

To accommodate this multitasking, allow English language learners time to process what you are saying. Even if a child appears fluent in English, she may still be thinking in her native tongue. That means she may need to translate what you’ve said into her first language, interpret the meaning, formulate a response and translate it back into English before responding to you.

Provide opportunities to build background knowledge and vocabulary through life experiences and enrichment activities. Including nonfiction books in your Read-Aloud also adds variety and builds background knowledge at the same time.

Provide access to books in English language learners' native language and bilingual books with English and the English language learners' first language. Also valuable are books in English featuring characters and themes from the English language learner's native region that depict the characters in a positive, capable light.

Build the word bank

Passing Time
I study the dictionary
because grass and trees
do not grow faster because I stare.

I look up
Jane: not listed
sees: to eyeball something
Spot: a stain
run: to move really fast
Meaning:  ______ eyeballs stain move.
I throw dictionary down
and ask Brother Quang.
Jane is a name,
not in the dictionary.
Spot is a common name
for a dog.
(Girl named) Jane sees (dog named) Spot run. 
I can't read
a baby book.
Who will believe
I was reading
Nhat Linh?
But then,
who here knows
who he is?

--Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Many English language learners have limited English vocabularies, which directly affects their reading comprehension. Help kids put more words in their word banks by
  • Encouraging talk at every opportunity,
  • Pointing out cognates to ease vocabulary growth,
  • Using pictures and real-life activities to build vocabulary and
  • Teaching new words encountered in books you read together.

Be a super model

English language learners' reading comprehension develops more slowly than that of their monolingual peers. They benefit even more from modeling of comprehension techniques. 

When reading aloud with English language learners, consider including the following techniques:
  • Model comprehension skills by thinking out loud and asking questions. 
    • "Hmm, I'm confused. Maybe I should go back and read that sentence again." Or, "I wonder what that means. What do you think is happening here?"
  • Define unfamiliar words within the context of the story and point out how you can use context to understand a new word. 
    • If the book you were reading said, "The crab grabbed my finger in his pincer. It hurt!" You could say, "'Pincer' is another word for the crab's claw. We might be able to guess that because of the words 'grab' and 'it hurt,' and also from the picture."
  • Make connections to other books or experiences and encourage the kids to do the same thing.
    •  "What does this remind you of?" "Have you ever done that?"
  • Model making predictions and encourage kids to predict what will happen next.  Retelling or summarizing what they have heard are also important skills to develop.

English language learners make up the fastest growing population of students in U. S. schools. We hope the strategies and insights we’ve provided here help you help the English language learners at your Read-Aloud enjoy reading and strengthen their language and reading skills at the same time.

Thanks to Jennifer Gray, Ph.D., of Marymount University, for her collaboration on this piece.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fast food: Easy snacks for your Read-Aloud

Getting and keeping the attention of a group of children at a Read-Aloud can be a challenge on the best of days, but trying to engage a group of hungry children? That can feel nearly impossible. Over 30 percent of children in Washington, DC, are food-insecure, and those rates skyrocket in low-income families like the ones often served by TRC. Hungry kids have a harder time concentrating, but a simple snack offered during the course of a Read-Aloud can go a long way toward helping the children learn and have fun.

If your site allows snacks, consider including them in your Read-Aloud.  Remember to check with site staff about any food allergies. Just to be safe, it's a good idea to avoid peanuts, pork and gelatin to accommodate common dietary restrictions. (Bye-bye, gummy bears!)

There is no need to go gourmet, unless that fits in with your Read-Aloud theme for the evening. (There are some great picture books that include recipes, like Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park, for example.) Some of the best snacks are grab-and-go, so go out and grab one of these to try at your next Read-Aloud!

Teddy Grahams.  These are perfect if you’re discussing bears, winter, hibernation, or even this year’s anniversary of the national parks (thank you, Teddy Roosevelt!). These cute little crackers come in several flavors, like honey and cinnamon (lots of fun if you’re “Going on a Bear Hunt”). Bury a few crackers in a vanilla pudding cup and suddenly the bears are hibernating in snow. An added bonus is Teddy Grahams can be purchased already packed in portions for easy distribution.

Vegetable tray. Prepackaged sliced vegetables + green construction paper = a garden scene! Let the kids play with their food. With celery stalks for stems and baby tomatoes or carrots for flowers, the kids can create art they enjoy first with their eyes and then their mouths. Deli-aisle trays often come with a container of dip, which can coax even reluctant veggie eaters into playing with their food. Keep in mind that small children can choke on pieces of hard fruits and vegetables. Watch any child under the age of four very carefully.

Dried fruit. Available in packages or from the bulk aisle at some grocery stores,  dried fruits are a sweet yet nutritious snack. Think of complimenting a tropical Read-Aloud theme with dried papaya, mango or pineapple.  

Trail mix. Pick up a bag of premixed trail mix, or throw together your own concoction if you’re feeling ambitious. Hearty trail mix occupies little hands while they fill bellies. Try serving trail mix in a cup to cut down on spills, and be sure to avoid peanut products in your mix.

Apples. Move beyond Red Delicious and Granny Smith into the world of Pink Lady, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp. Tie the snack in to the session’s activity by offering children the chance to taste-test unusual varieties of apples and charting their preferences. If you can't find a variety of fresh apple varieties, you can taste test dried apple rings as compared to fresh apple slices and even apple chip.

Goldfish crackers. Like Teddy Grahams, these little fishies come in a wide variety of flavors (think pizza, pretzels and birthday cake) and are an easy-to-serve crowd pleaser that ties in with a wide range of Read-Aloud themes like oceans, animal groupings and colors (yes, they come in colors).

Crackers, in general. Graham crackers, Triscuits or any basic square or rectangular crackers are great on their own or to use in an activity to build tiny, edible structures. Animal crackers or rice cracker snack mix offer other snack options. 

Oreos. Offer kids a small stack of Oreos and let them create phases of the moon by twisting the cookies apart and strategically eating away the icing.  They’ll never again forget waxing versus waning!

Next time your team is planning a Read-Aloud, think about throwing a simple snack in to the session’s agenda. It often means little more effort to a volunteer than an extra item on your grocery list, but these easy eats can have a big impact on TRC's kids!