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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Get Moving!

Kids have lots of energy! No matter how much kids love it when you read to them, they often have trouble sitting through a Read-Aloud. Most of the time the kids at a Read-Aloud have spent all day being asked to sit still and listen at school and during their after school programs. Schools have recess, fine arts and PE to give the kids a chance to give their minds a break. Read-Alouds should have time built into them for the kids let loose a bit as well.

Start out your Read-Aloud with a game of Simon Says, a round of stretches or a one minute dance-around. This will give the kids a chance to clear their brains and use some of the energy they've been storing. This is especially important on a rainy or snowy day when the kids have been cooped up inside all day. A simple routine of reaching up to the sky, down to the ground, to the left and right can do wonders.

It is equally as important to let the kids move again when they get restless between books. Ask the kids to participate in the story, acting out what the characters are doing by stomping their feet like the dinosaurs or waving their arms like the monkeys in the book. 

If the crowd is on the younger end of the spectrum, try a song with movements such as Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes or I'm a Little Teapot. Check this blog post from last September with more song options.

One of our favorite sources of movement activities is a book from Responsive Classroom 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 them in action.  Check out a few of the examples below and consider using one at your next Read-Aloud. Also be sure to check out the monthly Read-Aloud tips for theme-related movement activities.

A Tootie Ta
This song asks the kids to do certain actions and to combine them as the song continues. Hilarity will ensue, so be sure the adults do it too, so the kids know it's okay to be silly.

This group of pre-K kids will show you how it's done.

Lyrics: A tootie ta, a tootie ta, a tootie ta ta (x2)
Add one of the following at the end of each verse. This part is call and response.
Thumbs up, elbows back, feet apart, knees together, bottoms out, tongues out, eyes shut, turn around.

Go Bananas! 
Let the kids "go bananas!" and channel some of their energy! Don't worry if they mix up their lefts and rights--the point is to have fun!

Arms above head, palm together
Peel Bananas, peel-peel bananas (x2)
Lower arms one at a time, then return to above head
Peel to the left
Lower left arm
Peel to the right
Lower right arm
Peel down the middle
Lower arms in front of body
And chomp! Take a bite
Clap arms like an alligator mouth
Chomp, chomp! Take a bite
Clap arms like an alligator mouth
Go bananas, go-go bananas! (x2)
Jump and spin around freely

Now here it is in action:

Dum Dum Dah Dah!
This follow-the-leader activity gives kids a chance to be the leader once they've gotten the hang of it. This can be useful for validating kids who might not often have the chance to lead a group.
The leader says "Dum dum dah dah" and demonstrates two different actions. Then, the group imitates him or her. Here are some examples:
Leader: Dum dum (clap hands) Dah dah (clap thighs)
Group: Dum dum (clap hands) Dah dah (clap thighs)
Leader: Dum dum (pats shoulders) Dah dah (pats head)
Group:Dum dum (pats shoulders) Dah dah (pats head) 

Possible movements include (but aren't limited to--make up your own, and have the kids make them up!) toe touches, straight knees/bent knees, lean left/lean right, snap fingers.
Over the course of the exercise, get quieter and quieter.  End with "Shhh shhh shhh shhh"  and make a "quiet" gesture, like fingers on lips. 

With all of these exercises, practice the words together first, and then add movements. Make sure that all of the kids have room to spread out and move around without bumping into each other! Have fun getting everyone's wiggles out and be sure to end the activity in a way that settles everyone down to listen to a book.

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kids in Charge

Looking for a way to get the kids at your Read-Aloud to really engage and buy into the entire evening? Give them opportunities to call the shots and make some decisions. Kids don't often get the chance to be in charge, so they are very proud of their choices when they have the opportunity to make them. Here's how kids can take charge of most aspects of a Read-Aloud in certain situations:

Theme Choice: Hold a vote at the end of your Read-Aloud to select the next theme. You can offer some choices to get things started and then let the kids add their own ideas. They might want to read about dragons or ghosts or something you'd never have considered. You can implement the selected theme the next time your team does a Read-Aloud, or you can work with the team that will be there first so the kids get more immediate satisfaction. 

Books: Depending on the group, allowing the kids to pick their small group books might work really well. This can be done in a variety of ways.
  • Each adult picks a book and the kids divide themselves up by going with the volunteer reading the book they want to hear.
  • Lay the book choices on a table and tell the kids to pair up, pick a book they want to hear, and then find a volunteer to read it to them.
  • Assign children to groups based on their ages and let each group choose from three book options to hear read aloud.

Activities: Provide two options for activities and let the kids choose which one they like more. Open-ended crafts, such as drawing what they would want to be when they grow up or making a dinosaur out of pipe cleaners, allow kids to create something based on their own skills, regardless of their age or abilities. This way, each child can be proud of the product she produces.

Snacks: Use the same method as the theme choice and let the kids vote between two or three reasonable and healthy snacks. For more tips on snack ideas, click here.

Book Ownership: Getting excited about books is largely based on picking a book that you really want to read. For tips to help kids pick a great book for themselves, click here. To build even more pride in the book selection, have the child write his or her own name in the chosen book. 

Rules: Because kids (and adults) value the things they create, many programs have the kids work together to create group rules. TRC already has the Promises, but if the kids at your site are really rowdy, you might help them buy into the system if they help you develop rules for the day.

Lastly, if certain kids in the group need more attention, give them jobs such as setting up the activity or snack, turning the pages, passing out markers or putting out the carpet squares. If this works exceptionally well with a specific child, be sure to tell the other volunteer teams at your site so they can use the strategy with that child as well.

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Feature: Press Here

Next time you're looking for the ultimate interactive book for your Read-Aloud, head to your local library or book store and pick up a copy of Press Here by Herve Tullet.

The very simple text in this book gives the reader instructions for what do do with the illustrations. The book starts out with a white page with a yellow dot in the middle. The text asks you to "Press here and turn the page."  Any eager reader will want to press the dot and see what happens on the next page. On the second page there are two dots, as if by pressing the first dot, the reader created the second. This continues throughout the book as the reader is asked to perform a variety of actions including pressing and rubbing the dots, clapping and shaking the book in particular manners.

To engage all of the kids at the Read-Aloud, have each child come up to complete the action on the page. Or, assign each child a color; red, yellow or blue and have them act out their color dot's actions in the book. This site even has colored dots that you can print and tape or pin to each child as their color assignment.

There is even an iPad and iPhone app that allows kids (and adults) to play with the multicolored dots to create pictures, play games and imagine all of the things that colored dots can be.

Press Here has a website with videos, reviews and downloadable activities.  Print off a mini version of Press Here, play a matching game with the dots and the requested action or create your own pages with interactive ideas. Herve Tullet's website has even more videos about the book and shows covers of the book in a multitude of languages.

Use the book's theme, "It's not magic. It's the power of your imagination." to direct your choices of accompanying books.  Other interactive books that require audience participation would be great choices to go with Press Here at your next Read-Aloud.

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

Arlington Kids Read: Community Read-a-Thon

The Reading Connection, in conjunction with Arlington Magazine, has created a new reading initiative, Arlington Kids Read. Its goal is to promote reading for Arlington kids and families and to raise funds to support TRC's ongoing reading programs for at-risk kids.

Arlington Kids Read will have events throughout the year, starting with a Community Reading Festival on May 12 and followed by a Community Read-a-Thon from May 12 through May 19.  

Arlington Kids LogoThe festival will be an afternoon of reading fun from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St, Arlington, VA 22201. There will be crafts led by TRC volunteers, goodie bags, face painting and read-alouds with guest readers including 
• Bilingual storyteller Mariela Aguilar
• School board member Sally Baird
• Meteorologist Adam Caskey
• Children’s book author Jacqueline Jules
• Children’s librarian Lisa Cosgrove-Davies
• Chef Rob Valencia

Clifford will even make a guest appearance, courtesy of WETA Kids. Goodie bags will include information about various summer reading programs offered throughout the county, the Read-a-Thon log book and other treats from the event's sponsors.
Many of the Arlington Read-Aloud sites, including Woodbury Park, the Berkeley and Virginia Gardens, will participate in the Read-a-Thon during the week of May 14. If you're reading with the kids at those sites that week, be sure to mention the Read-a-Thon and ask them how many minutes they've read so far that day. Time spent reading at a Read-Aloud counts towards the children's total minutes read for the day. Of the sites participating, the one with the highest average minutes read will win a pizza party and a book for each child. All children who participate will receive a certificate and will be entered to win one of several other prizes offered.

If you're interested in bringing the kids in your life to the festival, you can RSVP here. Feel free to pass this information on to friends and family. A flyer for the event can be found here. For more information about the Arlington Kids Read Campaign, check out the website at  

If you can't make it to the Community Reading Festival on May 12, don't fret, there will be more Arlington Kids Read events throughout the year. We'll be hosting several back-to-school story times throughout Arlington in September. We'll be looking for TRC volunteers to help as readers and activity coordinators for these events. If you know of a organization or place that might be a good host for one of these story times, please let Stephanie know.