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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The power of choice

Book choice is part of every Read-Aloud. Choosing a book isn’t the icing on the cake, it’s an important layer of the cake itself! Empowering kids to choose the books they want to read is important to their literacy development and reading motivation.

We know helping kids choose books can be challenging for Read-Aloud volunteers, especially if kids are shy or you don't know them well. There’s a fine line between providing support and guidance and making the choice for the reader. If two kids want the same book, of the remaining books, what's a good substitute?  

Know your customer. 
The publisher Scholastic surveyed kids and found that 70 percent of kids said they wanted books that made them laugh. Check out the graphic to see the other categories kids say they're most interested in.  

Get to know the kids at your Read-Aloud (or in your life). Find out what interests them. Ask them questions about their likes and dislikes. Pay attention to how they react to various books and topics you present. It helps to have a sense of their age, grade at school and reading level, but don't let these factors  prevent a kid from choosing a book outside her “range.” 

Know your stock.
Be familiar with what is available in the give-away bin (or the bookstore or library, whichever is appropriate). As you set out the selection of books, take time to keep your eye out for authors, illustrators and series that kids have asked for or have been excited about. If you are at a library or bookstore, ask the staff about authors, illustrators and series that are especially good or popular. Learn about the different formats and genres available for kids. Check out this blog to build your children's book expertise!

Early Reader

Make suggestions.
You may think of “Customers who bought this also bought…” as an Amazon invention, but booksellers and librarians have been doing it since bookstores and libraries were invented. If you know a kid likes a certain author or illustrator, help him find more work by that person. If you know she liked a particular story or topic, help her find more of the same. If a kid seems curious or uncertain about a book, help him look through it or provide a preview by reading a little bit aloud. 

The key to this process is asking questions and listening carefully to the answers the kids give you. Remember that you can request specific books or series for kids at your Read-Aloud from the TRC office. Just include the request with the kid's name on your Read-Aloud report form or send Stephanie an email.

Encourage the reader to "try it on."
I-PICK is a method for choosing books used in some schools. If you find yourself with a kid stymied over whether a book appeals to her, encourage her to pick it up and take a look. Then walk her through the I-PICK questions. If she answers yes to the last three letters and has a reason (even just "it looks fun") to read the book, then it's a good fit.

Have the child read a page or two of the book to himself.
As he is reading, tell him to put down one finger for every
word  he doesn't know

If a child asks you if a book is too hard for him, have him try the five-finger test and make his choice based on that. But don't prohibit him from taking the book even if it is challenging. Interest and motivation can help a child build tenacity. 

Let it be.
This isn’t a do-or-die situation. TRC kids will get another chance next week to choose another book. Hopefully, the kids in your life will have many more chances to choose and try out books too. Even if you think a book is too difficult or too easy for a child, honor her choice. People are drawn to books for all kinds of reasons: inspiration, comfort, motivation, curiosity, the desire to be one of the crowd. These are all perfectly good reasons to choose books.

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

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