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, December 23, 2014

Interactive Books

There are SO many kids books available today. Books to take into the bathtub or to attach to a stroller, books with flaps, books with textures, books with multiple endings, sticker books, maze books -- the variety is mind-boggling. 

Interactive books are a great way to get kids excited about books. Whether lifting flaps, searching for clues or chiming in, these books require the reader's engagement. 

Interactive books can build skills. Touch-and-feel books build sensory awareness as kids finger soft fur, smooth balls and sticky frog's tongues. Books with flaps can help build toddler's prediction and fine motor skills. Kids who have tons of energy can pour their effort into lifting all of the flaps a book has to offer. 

Interactive books also allow kids to help "read" books well before they are able to read the words on the page. In the video below, an18-month-old helps read Where's Spot? by lifting the flaps and responding to questions.

Interactive books for babies and toddlers include the following:
  • Books with flaps, including Where's Spot? by Eric Hill,
  • Touch-and-feel books, such as the DK Touch-and-Feel series and Tails by Matthew Van Fleet,
  • Books made with interesting materials like pages of cloth or plastic,
  • Books that make noise (such as animal sounds) or play music.
  • Books with finger puppets, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar Finger Puppet Book.

Interactive books are just as important for older kids. Interactive books -- like sticker books, search-and-find books and books with optical illusions -- can be some of the few books that appeal to kids who are intimidated by a page full of text. Having fun and feeling successful with interactive books will help these kids see themselves are readers.  

For kids in the upper elementary grades, the Choose Your Own Adventure series by R. A. Montgomery is popular because it gives kids the power to determine how the story unfolds. At the end of each section of the story, readers decide between two options, each of which leads to different plot developments. The series has recently been expanded into versions for younger readers. 

Interactive books for school-aged kids include the following:

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Author Study: Roald Dahl

Best known for his wonderful characters from kids books -- Willy Wonka, Matilda, the Foxes and the BFG -- Roald Dahl was a many-faceted, multi-talented author. In addition to his books for kids, he wrote ribald and bone-chilling short stories for adults ("The Smoker") and the screenplay for the James Bond movie, "You Only Live Twice."

Dahl's writing for children draws on experiences he had growing up.  He often depicts kids encountering, and  enduring and outsmarting, badly behaved adults. Although his books have a fairy tale quality to them, Dahl never talks down to kids. His stories acknowledge the imbalance of power in the child/adult dynamic and the ridiculous situations kids face at the hands of grown-ups. He crafts his memorable characters and surprise endings in witty language and imaginative word play, making his books perfect for reading aloud.

Ask the nearest kid -- Dahl's books and characters will surely be cited as favorites. Kids love his mischievous characters, original word play and, last but not least, his "kid power" message. His books are also well known among kids because several have been made into successful movies.  ("Fantastic Mr. Fox,"  "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Matilda,"  "James and the Giant Peach" -- Hollywood has been a big Dahl fan!)  

His novels include the following:
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • The BFG
  • Matilda
  • The Witches
  • George's Marvelous Medicine
  • The Twits
Try reading a passage from one of Dahl's novels to give kids a taste of his memorable characters and invented words. 

He also wrote several shorter works, quick reads perfect for novice readers and listeners.
  • Esio Trot
  • The Enormous Crocodile
  • The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me
  • The Magic Finger
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Quentin Blake illustrated most of Dahl’s books. Even Dahl's full-length novels have illustrations, but the shorter ones have illustrations on nearly every page.  For example, The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me is 79 pages long, but approximately 40 of those pages are illustrations.

Don't leave Road Dahl land without taking a look at his Revolting Rhymes. These edgy, fractured fairy tales may appeal to more sophisticated listeners who are already familiar with the original versions. (Beware: some contain PG-13 language. "Cinderella" is an example.) Read them all the way through yourself to assess appropriateness and your comfort level before you read them with kids.

Many of Dahl's stories have detailed passages about food that kids will love. His book, Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, has recipes for many of the delightful dishes in his stories like stink bug eggs, lickable wall paper and eatable pillows. Kids will love cooking up some Dahlicious treats after hearing some of his stories.

If kids want to know about Dahl's life, they can check out his autobiographical works Boy and Going Solo. Boy explores his life up to age 20. Going Solo chronicles his experiences as young adult, including his time as a World War II pilot. They can also take a look at D Is for Dahl, a collection of biographical fun facts, arranged in alphabetical order and illustrated by Quentin Blake. 

The Roald Dahl website is chock full of information, photographs, timelines and activities, as is Quentin Blake's. A more basic fan site,, has trivia, games and a gobblefunk translator where you can translate English into the language spoken by the Big Friendly Giant.  And last but not least, here's a quiz about Roald Dahl and his books from the BBC.

Roald Dahl's books are so beautifully crafted that they are beloved by children and adults alike.  His characters, inventive language and independent, problem-solving kids make his books a pleasure to read with children. Best suited for one-on-one bedtime reading or reading aloud to a group of older kids, he's one of the most beloved children's book authors of our time.

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