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, May 18, 2015

Breaking Rules: Better on Paper

While I was searching through Reading Road Maps on TRC’s Volunteer Central, looking for a theme, I came across Trouble Makers. It was perfect. My Read-Aloud team had been looking for a way to reinforce TRC’s Promises and reset expectations at the beginning of a new year.

I picked out a slew of great books, including one of my childhood favorites - Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Tales tells the story of 9-year-old Peter Hatcher, and more often than not, Peter’s mischievous younger brother – Fudge. Fudge is always causing trouble: destroying Peter’s homework, dumping food on the floor, cutting his own hair. All in all, Blume penned five books featuring Fudge and his antics (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-mania and Double Fudge).

Picking books was the easy part. When I began to plan an activity to reinforce the theme, I worried I had made the wrong decision. Columbia Grove readers are a large, enthusiastic, vocal bunch. An invitation to engage in troublemaking seemed like a recipe for disaster. Instead, I decided to have the kids write about Fudge doing something wild and crazy – rather than doing anything wild themselves. 

At the Read-Aloud, we used the TRC Promises (especially "RESPECT") as a way to introduce the theme and start a discussion about getting into trouble. In a large group, we read a chapter from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing where Fudge gets into all kinds of trouble. In small groups, we read other books about mischief from the Trouble Makers Reading Road Map as well as M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children.

The kids were given a prompt and each wrote one sentence about something mischievous Fudge did on his first day of school. Their responses were wonderfully all over the place, with many (mostly those written by the boys) involving various bodily functions. We compiled their sentences, added a conclusion and bound the pages together into a "book": Fudge-a-Palooza.  

For kids who quickly finished writing their sentence, we had a word search waiting with synonyms for "trouble maker". And for a snack we served, appropriately, fudge.

The Columbia Grove Fudge story

That week, Columbia Grove readers had two things to sign. As always, they signed their new books to grow their identity as readers as well as their personal libraries. They also signed the title page of Fudge-a-Palooza and, hopefully, also began to identify as writers.

The kids showing off their Fudge book and their new books

Guest blog post written by TRC Read-Aloud volunteer, Erin MacKay.

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

Emergency Read-Aloud kit

Sometimes a structured, well-planned Read-Aloud just isn't possible. Unexpected things happen; volunteers get sick or stuck in traffic. 

If the volunteer with materials for your fantastic pre-planned Read-Aloud doesn't arrive, don’t panic. In a pinch, all you really need to conduct a Read-Aloud are some kids, some books and some fun. The key is to use what's on hand at your site and to conduct activities that require no preparation and few or no supplies.


Give-away books
Flip the regular schedule on its head and let kids choose their give-away books first. Then read those books with the kids in small groups. If children choose a chapter book, read a little bit of it to give them a taste of the story. Talk with the kids about why they chose a book, what they think will happen in the story and what they think of the characters or topic.

Books in the Reading Corner
Explore the books on the shelves in the Read-Aloud room. Talk with the kids about which books they like and which books they don’t. Talk about ways the kids could use the books (for fun reading, for doing a school assignment, to recommend to a friend who lives at the site, etc.). Then read a few of the books the kids are excited about.

On-the-fly activities

Use on-hand craft supplies
  • Make posters to decorate the Reading Corner. They could show what the kids like about the Read-Alouds or their favorite books. 
  • Draw self-portraits or a scene from a book they've read or heard.
  • Put out a variety of craft supplies that you find on site, such as construction paper, stickers, markers and crayons, etc,. and let the kids have unstructured creative time. 

Play get-to-know-you games
  • Alike and different — put people in pairs (volunteers and kids, kids and kids, etc.) and let them talk for a little bit.  Ask them to figure out some things they have in common (both like dogs, both born in July) and some things that are different (different favorite colors or foods, different music, different eye color). Then encourage each pair to share what they've discovered about their partner with the group.
  • Two truths and a lie -- ask the kids to think up three things about themselves. Two should be true and one made up. (For example: I like coconut. I was born in the summer. I have two brothers.) Then each kid, in turn, tells the group the three things and the group has to guess which one is the lie.

Play word games
  • Start with one word and see how many rhyming words the kids can list.
  • Do Madlibs as a large group, or in small groups and share the results. There's even a free Madlibs app that you can download and use. Some of TRC's Read-Aloud sites have Madlibs in their binder.

Explore your surroundings
  • Be scientists or detectives. If you can take the kids outside, look for bugs, birds, plants, types of cars, colors, shapes or any category of items. Inside, have them observe the room for shapes, patterns, small items. Help the kids to make a list or draw pictures of what they find.  
  • Ask the kids to close their eyes and listen carefully — what do they hear? If there aren’t a lot of ambient noises, make some by moving a chair, shaking your keys, zipping a coat, opening a cabinet. Ask the kids to guess what the sounds are. You can also play an immense variety of sounds from the BBC stimulus sound library.
  • Play I SPY or I HEAR (“I spy with my little eye something that is round.” Or “I hear with my little ear something that sounds squeaky.")

Get up and move
  • Do yoga
  • Have a dance party using music from your phone or Youtube.  If you have or can find a variety of genres of music, have the kids adapt their dancing to the type of music.
  • Use a watch to time activities, such as standing on one leg, jumping jacks or wall sits.
  • Do a unified movement activity, like Tootie-Ta or Bananas Unite

Play games
  • Charades
  • Telephone
  • I Spy/I Hear
  • I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…
  • Simon Says
  • Musical Chairs
  • Red Light, Green Light

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, but fun and meaningful experiences with books can still happen at your Read-Aloud, even without your theme materials. As long as kids are hearing books read aloud. talking with you about books and get to choose a book to keep, you've accomplished your goal. And the extra good news is that you already have a Read-Aloud planned for next time!

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