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, February 22, 2016

We like to move it, move it!

Kids need to MOVE! It doesn't matter whether they've been snowed in or sitting all day at school. Including movement in every Read-Aloud gets blood circulating, bringing oxygen to the brain and helping kids stay engaged. Movement also makes many kids more comfortable. And it’s fun! 

Here is a collection of our favorite movement ideas from previous blog posts, plus a couple of new ideas.

Bubble Wrap Dance Party

That's right: put bubble wrap on the floor, turn on some music and dance! TRC has lots of bubble wrap on hand at the office for you to use at your next Read-Aloud. 

Read some books about music, dancing or noise and get dancing! The kids will love the satisfying snap the bubble wrap makes at they cut the rug.

Some days, you might be looking for a more serene option than a bubble popping dance party. Why not try yoga? Have the kids take five or six deep breaths, stretching their hands high on the inhale and rounding their hands back to "heart center" during the exhale. That kind of movement works wonders in calming down a group of kids. 

For more kid-friendly yoga moves, here are some poses that elicit group movement and concentration: 
Use these yoga warm-ups to imitate things kids are familiar with. such as a tree and a pea.  
Finish with a seated position so kids are ready to listen to a story right after finishing.

For more detailed instructions on how to incorporate yoga in your Read-Aloud, check out this blog post or TRC's Volunteer Central (search for "yoga" under Read-Aloud themes).

One of our favorite sources of movement activities is a book entitled Energizers!  88 Quick Movement Activities that Refresh and Refocus by Susan Lattanzi Roser. Many of these activities have accompanying videos online so you can see how they work in action. 

To see some of our Energizer favorites, including "Tootie-Tah," "Go Bananas!" or "Dum Dum Dah Dah," check out this blog post.

Active Themes

Another way to get the kids moving is to choose a Read-Aloud theme that is active by its very nature. Try a Read-Aloud about soccerrunningdance or ninjas. Even a Read-Aloud about cooking or painting gets hands and brains working. Or look for books related to your theme that encourage movement and get the kids moving to them while you read. 

Move at every Read-Aloud

Include movement in any Read-Aloud, regardless of theme, with the following:  

Incorporating movement into your Read-Aloud in any way will improve the experience for the kids. It will meet their physical needs, allowing them to enjoy listening to stories, and demonstrate to them that reading doesn't always have to be a sedentary activity.

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

Monday, February 8, 2016

And the winner is...Making sense of children's book awards

Last month the children’s book community held its early morning version of Oscar night. The American Library Association (ALA) announced its annual youth media award winners, with the glittering gold Newbery medal awarded to Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, and the gilded Caldecott medal to Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Thanks to these awards, these books will experience a big bump in exposure and find more readers than ever.

When it comes to deciding what books to share with the young readers in your life, there is so much to choose from! The process can be intimidating and confusing, even for folks who are experts in this area. But if you can become familiar with the players in this field, you’ll be able to find great titles and guide your young readers to the very best in children’s books.

So who really knows children's books?

Trust librarians
Newbery Award
Librarians are an excellent resource for finding any book. But they are particularly good at sniffing out the best ones and then spreading the word about them. The librarians of the American Library Association present the best-

Caldecott Award
known and most prestigious awards for children’s books. This includes the Newbery Medal, which is annually awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, and the Caldecott Medal, which is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. 

The ALA also annually presents the following important, more focused awards:

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards, honoring outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The author award winner this year was Rita William-Garcia for Gone Crazy in Alabama. The illustrator award went to Bryan Collier for Trombone Shorty.

The (Pura) Belpré Medal, honoring a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. The 2016 author award went to Margarita Engle for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. The illustrator award went to Rafael López for Drum Dream Girl.

The (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal, honoring the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States. This year's winner was Don’t Throw It to Mo!, written by David Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks.

The (Robert F.) Sibert Informational Book Medal, honoring the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published. The award this year went to Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

The Schneider Family Book Awards, honoring an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. The Schneider award for last year went to A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin and Girls Like Us by Gail Giles for children's book, middle school and teen book, respectively. The 2016 award has not been given yet.

The current year's Newbery, Caldecott, Belpré, Sibert and Geisel Award and Honor books are included in the ALA’s Notable Children's Books list, which identifies the rest of the best of the best in children's books. The honor books are the "runners up" for the main award, and you'll know them by their silver or black stickers.

All of these award-winners are selected by committees of librarians who have spent an entire year reading as many books as they possibly can.

Trust kids
Librarians aren’t the only ones who can pick out great books. There are lots of book awards made each year by kids! Teachers and librarians often nominate the titles that kids ultimately choose from, but kids do get to voice their choice!

The Children’s Choice Book Awards is the only national book awards program where kids and teens select the winners.

Virginia Reader’s Choice is one of many U.S. Reader's Choice Awards by State that get kids reading, evaluating and voting for favorite books.

Trust your instincts
Take a look at lots of books. Spend some time in the children’s section of the library or bookstore and page through books with and without shiny stickers. Get a feel for what you like, but keep in mind that a book that received a shiny sticker back when you were a child may not have the same appeal to kids today.

And as you come across a great book, share it! What’s on your “Best of” (or even “Worst of) list? Can't you see the headline now “The Best Read-Aloud Books of 2016” by The Reading Connection?

Guest blog post by Belle of the Book, Rachael Walker.

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