TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Guess who's coming to our Read-Aloud: Having special guests at your Read-Aloud

This post is the second in a series that began with a post on March 8, 2016, called Guess who's coming to our Read-Aloud: Finding special guests. In that blog post, we discussed how to choose, invite, inform your colleagues, etc. In this follow up, we cover planning the Read-Aloud to take advantage of this special event. 

Reading time

Having a special guest at your Read-Aloud will likely change the usual session structure. Your guest might converse with the kids longer than is typical. The activity may also take more time than usual, or you might not have time for an activity at all. These changes will affect the amount of time you'll be able to devote to reading.  
 Even if you're unsure of how much time you'll read, be sure to bring books related to the theme. It's important for the kids to see books related to the special guest's theme, because this encourages the kids to explore the subject through books if they are interested. 

If the Read-Aloud is dominated by conversation between the guest and the kids, that's completely appropriate. Building literacy entails expanding background knowledge and vocabulary. By hearing new subject area vocabulary and learning about a new topic, kids are building their background knowledge and vocabulary so they will be better positioned to enjoy reading and learning in the future.

To summarize, prepare as usual by bringing a few books that will work to read to the whole group, as well as some that would work in small groups, but don't be distressed if less reading than usual takes place.

Activity time

Sometimes, simply interacting with the guest will be your activity. Or, a hands-on activity may be the best way to let the kids experience the guest's subject. Think carefully about what kind of activity would work best with your guest. 

Activities should be interactive so they bring the subject to life. For example, when Becky, a zookeeper from the National Zoo, came to Greentree Shelter, she brought bamboo for the kids to touch. Then the kids prepared foods that the animals eat (and they could eat too!). This hands-on activity got kids engaged in thinking about the lives of animals and the work zookeepers do.

Even if your plan for the activity is for the kids to interact with the guest, bring a simple back-up activity. You never know how long a guest will speak or if an unexpected turn of events (like firefighters having to leave because of an emergency call) will cut that interaction short. 

Including your team members

Although one or two volunteers may take the lead in scheduling the guest, planning and orchestrating the Read-Aloud, all of the volunteers can help keep the kids focused and engaged. All team members should be encouraged to help with the following: 
  • Look for books related to the theme,
  • Brainstorm short additional activities to be used if the special guest and main activity don't use as much time as expected.
  • Take photos, if allowed at your site. Send them on to TRC and to the special guest. 

Thanking the special guest

Send a thank you to your guest for coming to the Read-Aloud. In the past, we have had guests come back time and again because they had a such a great experience. Fostering a positive experience for the guest and showing our appreciation can increase the likelihood that he would be willing to come back again or to visit another site. If you were able to snap a picture with the guest and the children, or of the children engaged during the Read-Aloud, send it along with a thank-you letter to the guest. Also, at your next Read-Aloud, ask the kids sign a group thank-you card. (If you do this and wait a month, send a note from you and your fellow volunteers right away.)

Read-Aloud report

When completing your Read-Aloud report, be sure to describe how the guest interacted with the kids, what kind of activity you did, how the kids reacted and which books worked wellThis will help other volunteers who might want to do a Read-Aloud on that theme, with or without a guest.

If the guest was a big hit, call or email Stephanie about her! If the guest is interested, TRC may try to coordinate another visit.

Bringing a special guest to your Read-Aloud can open up a whole world of experiences and excitement for the kids you serve. And volunteers often enjoy the visit as much as the kids.

This post was written by Rachel Fishman, TRC's AmeriCorps VISTA. 

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

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