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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fast food: Easy snacks for your Read-Aloud

Getting and keeping the attention of a group of children at a Read-Aloud can be a challenge on the best of days, but trying to engage a group of hungry children? That can feel nearly impossible. Over 30 percent of children in Washington, DC, are food-insecure, and those rates skyrocket in low-income families like the ones often served by TRC. Hungry kids have a harder time concentrating, but a simple snack offered during the course of a Read-Aloud can go a long way toward helping the children learn and have fun.

If your site allows snacks, consider including them in your Read-Aloud.  Remember to check with site staff about any food allergies. Just to be safe, it's a good idea to avoid peanuts, pork and gelatin to accommodate common dietary restrictions. (Bye-bye, gummy bears!)

There is no need to go gourmet, unless that fits in with your Read-Aloud theme for the evening. (There are some great picture books that include recipes, like Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park, for example.) Some of the best snacks are grab-and-go, so go out and grab one of these to try at your next Read-Aloud!

Teddy Grahams.  These are perfect if you’re discussing bears, winter, hibernation, or even this year’s anniversary of the national parks (thank you, Teddy Roosevelt!). These cute little crackers come in several flavors, like honey and cinnamon (lots of fun if you’re “Going on a Bear Hunt”). Bury a few crackers in a vanilla pudding cup and suddenly the bears are hibernating in snow. An added bonus is Teddy Grahams can be purchased already packed in portions for easy distribution.

Vegetable tray. Prepackaged sliced vegetables + green construction paper = a garden scene! Let the kids play with their food. With celery stalks for stems and baby tomatoes or carrots for flowers, the kids can create art they enjoy first with their eyes and then their mouths. Deli-aisle trays often come with a container of dip, which can coax even reluctant veggie eaters into playing with their food. Keep in mind that small children can choke on pieces of hard fruits and vegetables. Watch any child under the age of four very carefully.

Dried fruit. Available in packages or from the bulk aisle at some grocery stores,  dried fruits are a sweet yet nutritious snack. Think of complimenting a tropical Read-Aloud theme with dried papaya, mango or pineapple.  

Trail mix. Pick up a bag of premixed trail mix, or throw together your own concoction if you’re feeling ambitious. Hearty trail mix occupies little hands while they fill bellies. Try serving trail mix in a cup to cut down on spills, and be sure to avoid peanut products in your mix.

Apples. Move beyond Red Delicious and Granny Smith into the world of Pink Lady, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp. Tie the snack in to the session’s activity by offering children the chance to taste-test unusual varieties of apples and charting their preferences. If you can't find a variety of fresh apple varieties, you can taste test dried apple rings as compared to fresh apple slices and even apple chip.

Goldfish crackers. Like Teddy Grahams, these little fishies come in a wide variety of flavors (think pizza, pretzels and birthday cake) and are an easy-to-serve crowd pleaser that ties in with a wide range of Read-Aloud themes like oceans, animal groupings and colors (yes, they come in colors).

Crackers, in general. Graham crackers, Triscuits or any basic square or rectangular crackers are great on their own or to use in an activity to build tiny, edible structures. Animal crackers or rice cracker snack mix offer other snack options. 

Oreos. Offer kids a small stack of Oreos and let them create phases of the moon by twisting the cookies apart and strategically eating away the icing.  They’ll never again forget waxing versus waning!

Next time your team is planning a Read-Aloud, think about throwing a simple snack in to the session’s agenda. It often means little more effort to a volunteer than an extra item on your grocery list, but these easy eats can have a big impact on TRC's kids!