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, August 29, 2011

Book Feature: Good Sports

Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing and More

Good Sports: Rhymes About Running, Jumping, Throwing and More contains poems about a wide range of sports and the children who play them.  These rhymes are not about star athletes, but about kids who like playing sports. One of the fun things about this book is that it features a wide range of sports, not just soccer, basketball and football. You'll read poems about Frisbee, track, swimming and others.

This book is a great choice for a Read-Aloud about sports or outdoor activities. The poems are short, but include complex vocabulary, so it's best for six- to twelve-year-olds.

  • Ask children to come up with sports not covered in the book, like skiing, bike riding and diving. If they need other ideas, they can think about sports that are part of the Olympics.
  • Talk about the illustrations; ask if it looks like the pictures are moving. Can the children draw action pictures?
  • Discuss the children's favorite sports. Are these sports in the book? Are their experiences with the sport similar to or different from those expressed in the poems?

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

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Prediction: What Happens Next?

    Prediction is important in the world of a reader. Studies show that we don't actually read every word on a page, but instead infer based on what we predict will happen next. When reading with children, it's important to stop and ask what they think will happen next. In a Read-Aloud, children use information they have already heard to guess what will happen later in the story.

    Thinking about using prediction in your Read-Aloud? Try reading cumulative tales; these stories build on consecutive steps. Two great cumulative tales are There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and The Napping House. Ask the children in your Read-Aloud to guess what the old lady is going to swallow next or how the story is going to end.

    Ready to apply prediction skills during a Read-Aloud?
    • Before the Read-Aloud, create index cards with sequential elements of a story on each card and mix them up. At the Read-Aloud, let the children work together to put the steps in order. 
    • Instead of using a story, use an activity the children will know well, like getting ready for school or making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Have fun with the activity! Be silly and add an illogical step, like brushing your teeth in the PB&J sequence, and see if the children catch on.

    Further Reading and Additional Activities
    How did the sequencing go? Interested in learning more about thinking in order? Learn more about sequential learning from this great Reading Rockets article; here you'll find lists of books and activities for helping children play with prediction skills and sequencing.

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

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Consider New Readers

    What is unique about children when they first start to read?

    Children of all ages attend Read-Alouds. To craft successful Read-Alouds, it is important to realize that children's interests and abilities vary according to their age, personality, emotional development and level of literacy. Let's look at five- to seven-year-olds.

    These children are able to sit still and pay attention. They have begun the work of learning to read and need to start having fun with books. They like being read to and like to talk about books and stories. 

    • Five- to seven-year-olds like fairy and folk tales and stories with animals that talk. Folk and fairy tales often provide repetition or a familiar structure that encourages the children to chime in or repeat the story to you.
    • Simple nonfiction is also popular — children have an appetite for facts.
    • Stories about school, home, other kids and familiar experiences provide a chance for kids to apply their own experiences to the story, and vice versa.  
    • Children like to show off their newly acquired reading skills. A few minutes spent one-on-one with a new reader will make her or his day!
    • New readers love to fill in repeated phrases and provide the correct rhyming word. Be sure to give children a chance to do so by pausing and letting them shout out the next word.

    General Tips for Success
    • New readers need more attention than experienced readers. To keep the children focused, split them into smaller groups and give them more personal attention.
    • When possible, let the children choose the next book from those books you brought with you. They love to call the shots, and for children whose lives are chaotic and stressful, having a say is very powerful. 
    • Take time to talk about what you've read with the children. This acknowledgment is very important. Listen to their ideas and show that you value them as fellow readers and people.

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

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Becoming the Volunteer You Want To Be

    We open every Read-Aloud with the TRC Promises, but what are the promises you need to make as a volunteer? What are you promising to the children, to your team and to yourself? Leading a Read-Aloud can be stressful, but you can also focus on the fun. Here is a four-part approach to managing behavior so everyone has a good time.

    1. Respect
    • Be prepared. Having your materials ready makes it easier on yourself, your team and the children. Communicating as a team before the Read-Aloud date doesn't just make it easier to plan, it will also mean you're in a better state of mind to have fun and enjoy time with the children. This is decidedly better than scrambling to decide which books to read or how to organize an activity at the Read-Aloud.
    • Use the TRC Promises. Not only are the promises — listen, respect, cooperate and have fun — good guidelines for living well, these promises are also a contract that the children know. We call them "promises," not "rules," to remind us that listening, respecting, cooperating and having fun are what we want to do. 
    • Value the child. This is one of the most important parts of a Read-Aloud: demonstrating to a child that he or she is important, smart and worth your attention. Call the children by name, listen to their ideas and opinions, engage in real conversations and set age-appropriate expectations. 

    2. Engage
    • Be direct. Use techniques to focus and refocus the children. Think back to our Spring 2010 training about using energizers and calming activities. To boost energy, consider "Dum Dum Dah Dah" or "Go Bananas." You can always use tricks that you know like playing Simon Says, dancing to the Hokey Pokey or getting warmed up with some stretches. For calming children down, try the "Now I'm Still" exercise or "1,2,3 Calm Down Me." Another good option is "If you can hear my voice." 
    • Get attention. Use active reading techniques like having the kids point out things in the pictures, act out the movements or say the rhyming words. Remember to set up the story and pace the reading to build suspense and draw attention to how you tell the story.
    • Use your numbers. While one person is reading, the other volunteers should sit among the kids and be actively engaged in the reading. Show the kids what it means to be engaged in a book by roaring when cued or by filling in the missing rhyming word.  

    3. Adapt
    • Strategize the team. Are the some of the kids distracted or having trouble focusing? Split it up! If you have enough volunteers, break out into smaller groups with one volunteer and a few kids per group. The kids will love the personal attention and it will be easier for them to focus on the book in front of them.
    • Make a Plan B. Children like options, so have a choice ready! Be open to the unexpected. If your sponge race turns into a water fight, it's okay! A water fight is fun, too, and "kids will be kids." Which brings us to:
    • Bring humor. We laugh at the unexpected, so laugh when it happens to you. The children and you will feel relief knowing you brought joy!

    4. Discover
    • Learn. When you ask the children to share their time with you, you are immersing yourself in the world of the children. Take time to learn from them and ask when you don't understand something or think they may not. Listen to be heard.
    • Develop. Ask yourself: What you are taking away? What do you bring with you? Where do you plan to be? What is the objective? Is this the best way to lead a Read-Aloud? Reflect on the lesson you learn to so that you constantly improve.

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

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Finding African American Children's Books

    In a picture book, it is easier for kids to relate to the characters if the characters look like they do. Finding culturally diverse books takes time and expertise, but is well worth your efforts.

    Here are some sources we recommend for assistance in finding books featuring African American characters and themes.

    Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) awards the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, which "recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience" (ALA website). Recent award winners can be found here and include titles such as Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave and Jimi — Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix.

    The Black Caucus of the National Council for Teachers of English has compiled a list of books for young children, which lists books by author and title. The Arlington Public Library has also compiled its own list, in coordination with Black History Month. The Arrowhead Library System in Wisconsin put together another good list, divided by age.

    Try browsing the lists to find something that works with your theme. Or choose a variety of books from the lists and you'll be sure to have a great selection for your Read-Aloud.

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