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, 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.