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, December 17, 2012

The advantages of independent bookstores

Calling all last-minute shoppers! Feeling like it's getting too late to order online? Do yourself a huge favor and visit a local independent bookstore. You're in for an experience that far surpasses shopping for books at either a big-box store or on the online site who-shall-not-be-named.   

Families enjoy an event at Hooray For Books!
in Old Town Alexandria.

What do independent bookstores offer that you can't find using online book sources?  Or at chains?
  • A curated selection of books. Small stores have to prioritize, which means they select those books that, in their judgment, reflect the best and most saleable books. 
  • Knowledgable booksellers who are happy to give you a quick rundown of books they think you'll like. Tell them what you're looking for, you'll be astonished at their encyclopedic knowledge. And if nothing they suggest seems quite right, ask them again -- they love the challenge and understand the satisfaction of putting the right book in someone's hands.    
  • A relaxed atmosphere where people love to talk about books.  If you're there with kids, it's totally OK to let them sit or lie on the carpet and leaf through a selection of books.  In fact, join them on the floor and have an impromptu family read-aloud.  
  • Author appearances, where you can meet and talk to authors you admire. The children in your life can participate in story hours, meet authors and illustrators and participate in hands-on, high-quality book-related experiences.
Politics & Prose Bookstore invited students to
 hear Walter Dean Myers speak on the day he
became the National Ambassador for Children's Literature.
In addition to their role as gathering places for book-lovers and neighbors, local independent stores are good for your local economy. They return 68 cents of each dollar to the local economy. National chain stores return 43 cents, and online stores return 0 cents on the dollar to the local economy, according to the 3/50 Project, which advocates for local retail.  

Here are independent bookstores located around The Reading Connection's office in Arlington, Va.

Child's Play (Arlington, Va., Baltimore, Md., McLean, Va., Rockville, Md., Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md.)
Fairy Godmother, 319 7th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Hooray For Books! (Alexandria, Va.)
Kramerbooks & Afterwards (Washington, D.C.)
One More Page (Arlington, Va.)
Politics & Prose (Washington, D.C.)

To find the indie bookstores in your town, visit IndieBound.  

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

The power of imagination

We often hear it said that reading feeds the imagination. But the imagination also feeds reading. 

Being able to imagine what she is reading allows a reader to better understand the words she is reading. Experience (that builds background knowledge) and a healthy imagination work together to support reading comprehension.

An article by Doug Buehl for the Wisconsin Education Association Council explains how we use our imaginations to understand what we are reading and provides strategies to help kids develop their imaginations.

According to Buehl, kids need chances to practice creating mental images based on their senses. Here are some ideas (from Buehl and TRC) for beefing up imaginations.

  • Encourage kids to describe things they’ve seen or experienced. (What did you see at the zoo today? What did you do at the birthday party?) Remembering and describing objects and experiences can help a child learn to use descriptive words.
  • Pause when you are reading aloud to talk about what you are imagining as you read. Next, encourage the kids to tell you “what they see in their heads” when you read a passage. (Now the child is using descriptive words she gets from the story to create a new mental picture instead of using words to describe a memory or mental picture she already has.)
Grace acts out Anansi the Spider
  • Ask the kids to imagine themselves as an eyewitness, and to describe the story as if they were there. 
  • After reading a passage from a book, ask kids about their first impression of a character, an event or the setting. Ask them which words or phrases helped create that impression.

By helping kids strengthen their imaginations, we build their reading comprehension and, in turn, their motivation to read.  When you understand what you are reading, reading is more fun. 

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Online Story Time

When an author reads his or her book aloud, he or she reads with the inflection and pronunciation intended. In the past, the only way to hear authors read their work was to attend a reading.  Now, technologyhas provided many possibilities.  

Barnes & Noble's Online Storytime features one story a month. The story is read by the author. The book's illustrations providing the online images. Instead of showing a full-page spread of the illustration, the camera zooms in on an item as it relates to the text the author is reading. This allows the child to focus on a particular portion of the image to best understand how it relates to the text. The image is always moving, usually zooming in or out, which appeals to kids' desire to watch a moving picture. The characters in the image do not move though, as the illustrations are exactly the same as the illustrations on the page of a book. It's a perfect combination of online technology and the picture book format.

Currently, there are 16 stories available on Barnes & Noble's Online Storytime. They range from classics such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle to new favorites such as Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann.  This month's story is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

A second example of this concept has been put together by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and called Storyline Online. At, famous actors read their favorite children's book in much the same fashion as Barnes & Noble's Online Storytime. You can watch Betty White read Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion or James Earl Jones read To be a Drum by Evelyn Coleman.  Storyline Online also offers related activities for each story as well as related books.

Both sites provide information about the author. Storyline Online also provides a short bio of the illustrator and the reader. Kids may feel an affinity with the author, now that they know a little something about him or her.

Watch a story for your own enjoyment, or spend some quality time with children showing them a new story or an old favorite read by the author or an actor.

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