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, July 25, 2016

Have a ball reading!

Our last blog post featured a Read-Aloud about being yourself. For the activity, kids and volunteers took turns answering questions about themselves based on questions from a paper cube they rolled like a die.

Volunteers found the cube with questions online.  They discovered that having the cube to roll to prompt kids to answer questions was a great tool. 

You don't need a theme-specific prop to use this idea at your Read-Aloud. You can get the kids talking with each other and moving at the same time by using a beach ball to prompt questions. You can use it at any point or at several points during your Read-Aloud. For example:

  • With the kids standing or sitting in a circle, toss a beach ball around to each kid and have them answer a question about themselves or about the Read-Aloud.

  • Before, ask a theme-related question to start the Read-Aloud and get the kids thinking about what they already know about the theme.
    • What lives in the ocean?
    • What is your favorite food?

  • During, ask questions while you are reading:
    • What will happen next?
    • Do you agree or disagree with the character's choice?
    • Does this remind you of another book you've read?

  • After, ask questions about books the books you've read:
    • What was your favorite character?
    • If you could change the ending, what would happen?
    • Why did a character make a certain choice?
    • What did you like or dislike about this story?
    • Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

  • You can also use the beach ball to get the kids to:
    • Answer questions about themselves (likes, dislikes, etc.);
    • Think up rhymes with words you provide;
    • Name things in categories related to your theme like nocturnal animals or feelings;
    • Name something they learned during the Read-Aloud.

You can use any kind of ball to do this, even a tennis ball, but a beach ball is easy to catch and store and isn't likely to break anything if it gets away from the group.

You can just ask one question at a time and throw the ball around, with each child or volunteer answering as he or she catches it, or you can use a dry-erase marker to write specific questions on your beach ball. The person catching the ball would answer the question his right thumb is on when he or she catches it.

In addition to being a way to encourage and organize conversation at your Read-Aloud, using a ball has the added benefit of integrating physical activity into the reading experience. So have a ball at your Read-Aloud and get some conversation rolling!

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Read-Aloud Report: Encouraging Kids to Be Themselves

Volunteers on Team B at New Hope Housing recently put together a captivating Read-Aloud session with the theme “Be Yourself.” It was a follow-up to a Read-Aloud presented the previous month on the theme “Positive Self-Esteem/Self Love.”  

Inspiration for some of the book choices came from this site

We began the session by reading the book Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio. This humorous book features two dog families, a family of poodles with one boxer sibling and a family of boxers with one poodle member. The kids enjoyed the characters and the message that your family loves you just the way you are.  .

Next, we read Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown. In this story, a tiger is tired of being “proper” in the city, wearing clothes and a top hat. He becomes a troublemaker when he tries to loosen up. He gets dismissed from the city into the wilderness, where he can let go and be himself.


The colorful book, Wild About Us by Karen Beaumont, came next. This book is beautifully illustrated by Janet Stevens, and depicts all the warty differences of animals in the zoo. A Kirkus review said that “ultimately the animals conclude that they are glad for their differences. After all, wouldn’t it be a shame if everyone at the zoo — or people, too — looked exactly alike?” It was also fun to look for the hidden fly in each illustration of this book. 

Finally, we read Red: a Crayon's Story by Michael Hall. This story is told by a pencil about his friend, the crayon, who had a red label but was actually blue. The story is, of course, about being true to yourself in spite of the obstacles. As with the other books, the kids had a great conversation. They wondered why no one noticed the mislabel sooner. They showed empathy for Red and were happy when someone finally saw him for who he was. 

Other books about being yourself can be found here.

Our activity allowed the kids and volunteers to learn about each other.  We brought in a giant paper cube and all of us, adults included, rolled the cube and answered the prompts on the cube (such as “I am good at…", "Three words that describe me are…", and "I am great because…”).  This activity captured everyone’s attention. The kids were great listeners while everyone took turns sharing their responses.

In this activity, the adults served as models for the kids. We were also able to provide positive suggestions for the kids to use, based on our observations during the session or what we already knew about the kids. For example, we were able to supply such suggestions as “You are a good listener." "You are good at predicting." "You are helpful because…” As we answered the questions, we colored in a heart on the worksheet with the corresponding number from the giant cube. 

As we progressed through the questions, the kids began to come up with answers that told us a little more about each of them. The boys shared examples of their athleticism. One child helped her brother when he was at a loss for words on what made him special. She said he was funny and caring. Other kids said that they helped their friends and were kind.
Before the kids left, the volunteers slipped an award over each kid's head. The award was made of a box of Cracker Jacks with a ribbon around it and a colorful “I am SPECIAL” label attached. This was a great hit! 

Everyone enjoyed this evening! We feel it was valuable for the conversations we had as well as providing an opportunity to honor the individuality in all of us.

Guest blog post written by Patsy Quick, a volunteer on Team B at New Hope Housing.

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