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 23, 2016

Author Profile: Jarrett Krosoczka

Meet Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author-superhero.

The Reading Connection is lucky to be on a first-name basis with this beloved author and illustrator. He was featured at Of Wine and Words in 2012 and, as a part of his visit, participated in a Read-Aloud. 

From his offbeat, hilarious picture books to his goofy chapter books, Krosoczka books are favorites at TRC. It's not just that his books are funny; his own personal story of considerable hardship, his characters and his books are meaningful and motivating to kids. From bed- or bath-time struggles and bad hair days to surviving the perils of student government, Jarrett's books reflect kids' experiences and foster resilience and creativity.

When Jarrett was a newly published author, a chance encounter with the lunch lady from his own elementary school sparked the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, which feature a cafeteria worker who fights evil villains and serves up justice as well as nutritious meals. Tapping into a common childhood experience and spinning it with secret crime fighting, cool gadgets and a graphic-novel format resulted in a wildly popular series.

Over time, the Lunch Lady series has grown beyond the books to include School Lunch Hero Day, recognizing the crucial role nutritious food and dedicated cafeteria staff play in nourishing growing bodies and minds. This event, held on the first Friday in May, encourages kids to thank their lunch ladies (and gentlemen) in creative ways. 

Thank you, Jarrett, for your playful insight, your terrific books that really connect with kids, the fabulous and free resources you create to get kids excited about reading, and for your support of schools, libraries and organizations like The Reading Connection. 

While the Lunch Lady series may be Jarrett's most well-known, many of his other books are favorites with TRC kids, too. Here are a few of his titles. 

Punk Farm and Punk Farm on Tour
These titles, featuring five farm animals who like to rock, are crazy good fun for reading aloud. And for singing and dancing! Download free Punk Farm music to hold a sing-along or dance party to familiar tunes with a twist, such as ”Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and “The Wheels on the Van.” Be ready for plenty of encores!

Max for President
With so much focus on elections these days, reading about Max’s experience running for class president is a great way for kids to learn a little about the process and gracious ways to deal with winning, losing and working together. You can also hold an election of your own and let kids vote on a favorite book or favorite book character. 

It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon
This book is a series of vignettes that will give kids lots of ideas about how to turn everyday setbacks into opportunities. Your balloon disappears into the stratosphere, but . . . Grandma will smile when she sees it flying by her airplane window. Bad things can become good things if you change the way you look at them. The frustrating situations that are presented will resonate with all kids. After reading the first few vignettes aloud, see if kids can predict the silver linings. 

Lunch Lady series
There are 10 titles in the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, beginning with Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, which introduces our hero, her sidekick Betty, and kids Hector, Terrence and Dee. When reading this or any graphic novel aloud, create different voices for the different characters, and change or lower your voice to read narration. As you read aloud, be sure to "read" the images as well as the words, commenting on the details, and give kids a chance to point out what they see. 

Give kids a chance, too, to create their own Lunch Lady gadgets. Betty’s blueprints can help get them started!

Not enough Jarrett for you? Try these resources.

Studio JJK: Jarrett’s website is packed with activities, videos, music and more!
The JJK Blog: Jarrett’s blog is full of interesting info about his work, travels and life.
Interviews: Jarrett gives great interviews and he conducts them too on The Book Report with JJK.

And something to look forward to: Star Wars: Jedi Academy: A New Class by Jarrett J. Krosoczka will hit bookshelves on July 26th! Return to TRC's blog post about Star Wars to use it in a Read-Aloud.  

Guest blog post by Belle of the Book, Rachael Walker.

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

Monday, May 9, 2016

Go Wild with Books: Jungle books and crafts from TRC's Community Reading Festival

This year marks The Reading Connection’s 6th Community Reading Festival. The June 4th festival is targeted at families with children aged two to six years old and will be held at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Alexandria from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Please join us!

Our theme this year is “Go Wild with Books!” and with the help of some balloons, decorations and awesome safari crafts, we'll have everything we need to transform the multipurpose room into the deepest parts of the jungle. 

Similar to a Read-Aloud, the Community Reading Festival will have guest readers, snacks and themed crafts. Although these crafts were created for the Community Reading Festival, they would go great at a jungle Read-Aloud of your own.


After listening to great books such as Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, In the Wild by David Elliott and Actual Size by Steve Jenkins, kids will be ready to create some jungle crafts of their own.

TRC has these books and materials for the crafts available at the office if you would like to do a jungle Read-Aloud at your site. Contact Stephanie for materials and then follow the instructions below.

First, when setting out on a safari through the jungle, it is important to have some binoculars to see all of the fascinating wildlife.

Safari binoculars


  • Toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls
  • Duct tape
  • Hole punch
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Markers/glitter pens
  • Label stickers


1. Take two toilet paper rolls and stand them next to each other.

2. Wrap duct tape around them to form the binoculars.

3. Use the hole punch to make a hole on each side of the binoculars (the outside of each roll).

4. Cut a piece of string 18 to 20 inches long and knot one strand of string through each hole.

5. Put a label sticker on the duct tape for the child’s name; some kids will probably need help.

6. Decorate using the markers and glitter pens.

Now that the kids can see the animals up close with their binoculars, it is time for the kids to create some animals for themselves. Here are tiger masks, monkeys and paper chain snakes.

Tiger Masks

  • Paper plates
  • Yellow and orange construction paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Duct tape
  • Popsicle sticks

Before this craft: cut the center out of paper plates, cut yellow and orange construction paper into varying 2- to 3-inch strips and cut out orange triangles about 3 inches across for ears.


1. Starting with a pre-cut paper plate, have children paste construction paper strips on to their paper plate. This will make the tiger “fur.”

2. Give kids two half triangles each to glue on the top as ears.

3. Take one Popsicle stick and tape it on the back of the mask, using a 1- to 2-inch piece of duct tape. This makes a handle for the mask.

Bendable Monkeys


  • Pre-made monkey template
  • Brown pipe cleaners
  • Glue
  • Markers, stickers

Before this craft: print templates of the monkeys (see below for template), and cut out monkeys for smaller children who cannot use scissors. (


1. Give each child a front and back of a monkey and two pipe cleaners.

2. Decorate the front and the back with the markers and stickers.

3. Take the two pipe cleaners and place them in an X formation on one of the monkey templates. Glue the other half of the template on top of the pipe cleaners.

4. Bend the arms and legs of the monkey in shapes.

Paper Chain Snake


  • Green and red construction paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Glue

Before this craft: Cut green, red and yellow construction paper, holding it landscape-oriented, into four strips per page; cut red construction paper into 2-inch by ½-inch strips; and cut a small triangle out of one side of the red strip.


1. Have children take 6 strips of colored paper and decorate them on one side.

2. Taking one strip of paper, make one complete circle and tape the ends together.

3. Thread another strip of paper through the first circle, and tape the ends shut. Repeat until there are six chains on the snake.

4. Glue two googly eyes on one end of the snake.

5. Glue one red tongue near the eyes of the snake.

With these crafts in hand, kids are ready to go on their own jungle safari! When we go wild with books, who knows what we will discover!

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