Tag Archives: read-aloud strategies

Reading Aloud to an Active Child

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Before the age of 5, children are usually on the go, learning about their world by exploring. How can you share a book with a wiggly child who has a short attention span? Use some of these strategies while your child is growing to have more self-awareness and concentration:

  • Read books that encourage movement and act out the story together.
  • Read books that are interactive and require your child to look for details in the illustrations or guess what happens next.
  • Pick a time of day to read aloud when your child isn’t wound up and is more likely to slow down and listen.
  • Give your child something to do with his or her hands while you are reading, such as holding a small toy or making marks with a crayon on paper.
  • Be ok with your child getting up in the middle of the story and coming back to hear more.
  • Don’t force it. If your child doesn’t want to listen, choose another book or another time to read aloud.
  • Keep read-aloud fun for everyone!

Try some of these books about animals in motion with your active youngster:

“Waddle!” by Rufus Butler Seder. One of a series of board books made with a technique called “scanimation” that layers transparent illustrations on top of each other. When you turn the page, the scanimation picture looks like it’s moving. In this board book there is plenty of word play with alliteration and rhyming. “Can you hop like a frog? Flip. flop. flop.” Each page features one animal and asks the young child to do some pretending and moving.

“Dancing Feet” by Lindsey Craig, illustrated by Marc Brown. Babies will be visually mesmerized by the patterns of animal footprints illustrated in “Dancing Feet” and toddlers will respond to the rhythm and rhyme of the text. The story is packed full of actions you can do with your child along with guessing which animal will be on the next page. This book received a Gold Award from National Parenting Publications.

“Move!” by Robin Page, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Perfect for a toddler, this book asks the listener to slither like a snake, leap like a frog, and make the motions for all kinds of animals. Your child will learn how his or her body can move! Check out the author’s other books for more animal adventures.

Leave a comment

Filed under board books, books for toddlers, movement

Reading to an Animal Builds Confidence

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership


Madison Deljoo, age 8 of Ithaca, reads to her cat Jack, who looks on with great interest. Reading to an animal is a non-threatening way for children to practice reading aloud.

Read to a dog? Read to a cat? Yes! That can be just the thing for a beginning reader. Animals love the hugs and petting they receive when they are paired up with early readers. And children love having a non-judgmental audience when they practice reading.

If you have a pet at home and a child just learning to read, see what happens when they are together sharing a book. Pick a time when your pet is relaxed and resting and your child can sit nearby and read aloud. If you don’t have a pet, try a stuffed animal sitting on your child’s lap, “listening,” without interrupting or correcting.

The Cornell Companions, based in Ithaca, NY, are a group of pets accompanied by volunteers who have been listening to children read aloud for years. These animals, who are mostly dogs, visit area schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospitals and other venues to enhance the lives of children and adults. At schools and libraries they become “reading dogs.”

For an animal visit, kids usually choose books from what they have at school, because when the children read what they are already know well, it helps build their confidence. If a child needs help with a word while reading to their animal, they can skip over it or the animal handler, classroom teacher, or aide can offer a suggestion.

One volunteer, John Martindale, regularly brings his show-dog, a Rottweiler named Tank, to listen to children read at area schools. Martindale says that when children first see Tank they are a little intimidated by his 110 lbs. size, but then the children get to know him and some even lie down with their head on him, using Tank as a pillow when they read.

Sometimes Tank pays attention, but other time he rolls over on his back and falls asleep. When Penelope the rabbit comes to schools she sits very quietly; and when the llama visits on special occasions, she gets a lot of petting before children settle down to read. It’s all part of the read-aloud experience and helps children see that reading is fun to do.

Of course a child can read any book to a pet, but it’s fun to read a story about animals and imagine that maybe the furry friends understand just a little. Here are some books to try:

“Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat” by Sara Swan Miller, illustrated by True Kelley. “The Rainy Day,” “The Yummy Bug,” and “The Good Day” are three short stories about all the things that could be a part of your cat’s day–nibbling plants, sharpening claws on the rug, diving into the garbage, and stalking insects. The humorous text accurately portrays the finicky, quirky nature of felines.

The “McDuff” books by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, are about a little Westie dog that will steal your heart with his adventures through seasons and situations. The expressions of McDuff, with head cocked to the side in an inquisitive look, will be familiar to anyone with a lap-sized dog.

“Biscuit Goes to School” by Allyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories, is an “I Can Read” book especially for beginners. Biscuit is a little puppy who wants to do everything like his owner, including going to school and listening to stories! Very few words on each page help keep the attention of young children practicing reading.



Leave a comment

Filed under easy readers, family reading

Strategies for a Reluctant Reader

Do you have a child who knows how to read, but doesn’t want to read? Does your child read only when asked and never chooses a book for fun?

If you find that your school-aged child is a reluctant reader (despite all the family times you enjoyed reading picture books together), you may want to try some new strategies: change where to read, what to read, and who is reading. One of these changes could spark your child’s imagination and interest and ease him into becoming a willing and eager reader.

Change where to read. If your child associates reading with hard work and no fun, think about a more comfortable and unique location where she can read.  Make a special spot that is only for reading.

How about putting a blanket over a table and making a cozy, private place to read underneath? Add some pillows and a good reading light and you have a reading destination. Maybe your child would want to change into pajamas and sit in a big, overstuffed chair, or wear a favorite baseball cap and snuggle into a quilt on the sofa to read. Brainstorm with your child and see what he or she can dream up.

Change what to read. What does your child love to do when he or she is not reading? Is she into sports? Is he into fantasy gaming? Does she love animals? How about cooking or growing vegetables?  Use your child’s interests as guidance for what books to choose. There are epic fantasy stories such as “Harry Potter,” action-packed books about every sport imaginable, such as those written by Matt Christopher, and non-fiction books that teach how things work and why. Ask your school or local librarian for ideas.

Change who is reading. Even when your child is an independent reader, read aloud to your child. Read aloud! Your child will always be able to understand more listening to you read than he can understand reading on his own. By reading books aloud to your child, he will hear new words pronounced that he never would have known by himself. She will be introduced to new ideas and have you as a parent there to help explain. Best of all, you will be spending quality time together, which is harder to come by as children get older and have various activities and interests outside of the family.

Read-aloud also keeps your child interested in books, which encourages more independent reading!  Maybe your child’s friend or other children in the family want to listen too. You could plan a regular read-aloud time with popcorn and good stories.

Remember that your reluctant reader knows how to read, but isn’t motivated to read for pleasure–yet. Keeping reading and books fun is key. For more ideas check out “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease.

Leave a comment

Filed under family reading, read-aloud resources

Summer Word Play

Your child has spent the afternoon running, jumping, swimming, and playing catch. Now it’s time to slow down and spend some quality time as a family. It’s time to exercise your child’s brain by playing with words, stories, and songs. You can do these activities almost anywhere with just a few materials.


1. Write down the titles of your child’s favorite books from home or the books you just got at the library on slips of paper. Put them in a bowl and then have your child pick a slip and see which book to read first.

2. Use a puppet or a stuffed animal to pretend to tell a story or read a book. Make up a new voice for the character that doesn’t sound like your normal reading voice.

3. Empty out the change in your pockets daily into a jar. When you have enough money, go with your child and buy a book of your child’s choice.

4. “Read” your family photo album together. Start with the baby pictures of your child and tell stories about the photos. What happened and who was there? What does your child remember? Tell the story of how you picked out your child’s name.

5. Help your child write and illustrate a letter it to send to grandma and grandpa or to a favorite author. You could also make your own greeting cards with your child for special occasions like a birthday or holiday.

6. Play a rhyming game. Say a word and have your child say a word back that rhymes, even if it is a nonsense word. Then reverse. You can make a little song with the words.

7. Write down all the things you will be having for dinner into a play menu. Help your child draw pictures of the foods next to the words. Use the menu at the table to “order” dinner like you would in a restaurant.

8. When you go on a trip or just on errands during the day, make a journal of your activities by writing them down as you go in a blank book.

9. Sing your favorite song together and let your child stand on your feet as you dance. Make up new verses of the song and sing it together.

10. Develop a secret hand signal that means “Let’s read!”

Leave a comment

Filed under book activites, family reading

Make Your Home a Book Home

Do you live in a Book Home? Is your home filled with a love of reading, listening to stories and playing with words? Are books a part of every day? Does your child have a favorite book and a favorite time to hear books read aloud?

Before children are ready to read, they need lots of “lap time” – time sitting with a grown-up or older child listening to books read aloud. They also need time to look at books on their own, to be comfortable holding a book and turning pages, exploring at their own pace.

Children discover that there is a story inside each book, and pictures too! They learn new words and ideas, excitement and adventure, comfort and delight! Just listening to books, without knowing how to read themselves, children learn how to express themselves in words, how to think creatively and critically, how to ask questions and, children develop a longer attention span.

With all that goodness packed in children’s books, you’ll want to make your home into a Book Home – if it isn’t already!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Own some children’s books, but also borrow from the library or pick up used books at yard sales or a Bright Red Bookshelf (our children’s book re-use program).
  • Have books within reach of children. For baby, put board books in a basket on the floor next to the toys. For pre-schoolers, make sure books are on lower shelves where children can get them.
  • Stand some books up on a table or in the bookcase so their front cover is facing out and they are more noticeable.
  • Take photos of your child enjoying a book and put that picture on the refrigerator, in a photo album or in a picture frame.
  • Give books as gifts for special occasions like birthdays and holidays.
  • Let your children see you reading books, magazines, letters and emails.
  • Play with words! Sing nursery rhymes, say tongue twisters, make up silly word combinations with your child.
  • Talk to your child about the books you read together. Talk to your child about what you do together. Children learn words by hearing them and using them.
  • Do things with your child that you read about in children’s storybooks, like baking cookies, visiting a park, going for a walk. Relate the books you read to real life.
  • Read to your child every day!

Here are additional ideas about creating a Reading Nook in your house. 21 Blogs with Creative Ideas for Making a Reading Nook for Your KidsHave fun!

Leave a comment

Filed under book activites, family book traditions, family reading, read-aloud resources

I Think I Can!

“I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can,” said the little blue engine as it chugged slowly up the rocky mountain. When you are a three-year-old and small–when you are just learning how to do things that grown-ups take for granted–the story of “The Little Engine That Could” is empowering. In the story, the train engine that was the most unlikely to be able to pull the long line of train cars over the mountain was able to do it! As the train went down the other side of the mountain it chuffed, “I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could, I-thought-I-could.”

The version of “The Little Engine That Could” that most families know is by Watty Piper (the pen name of Arnold Munk), illustrated by Lois Lensky, and published in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The origin of the story is unclear, but is similar to part of a sermon, “The Story of the Engine That Thought It Could,” by the Rev. Charles S. Wing in 1906. The story in the sermon was later published as a children’s book named “The Pony Engine” in 1910.

Since the 1930 publication of “The Little Engine That Could” there have been other slightly different versions of the story published and many references in popular culture to the notion of “I think I can,” promoting the idea that even if you think you can’t do it, just try!

Not every time a child tries to do something new, however, ends up successfully. Sometimes there is disappointment. That’s when a parent can talk to their child about how much is learned just in the attempt, even if things don’t turn out as we plan. Reading storybooks about trying can help open up a conversation about life’s ups and downs. Talk about the books you read together and listen to what your child thinks about the stories. You may be surprised!

Try these books for your pre-schooler which all support trying, but also are realistic about the abilities and interests of a young child.

• “I Like It When…” written and illustrated by Mary Murphy. A very affirming story for youngsters about doing things together with a grown-up, like eating new foods, helping around the house, dancing, and sharing books. The book ends with a sweet, “I love you.”

• “From Head to Toe” written and illustrated by Eric Carle. From turning your head like a penguin to bending your knees like a camel, activities all end with the refrain of “I can do it!” This is a fun book to read and act out with your child.

• “Can I Play Outside?” by Mathew Price, illustrated by Atsuko Morosumi. Featuring a bear family, this story illustrates in a gently way how grown-ups can do some things that children can’t (such as drive a car), but that children can do lots of other things (like play in the sandbox).

Leave a comment

Filed under can do, children's books, family reading

Explore Summer with Books

Help your children discover the wonder and magic of the outside world this summer with some choice children’s books. You’ll be satisfying their curiosity and giving them experiences that will be happy summertime memories for years to come. You can explore your own backyard, the beautiful night sky, or your vacation spot on the ocean with field guides written especially for young children.

• The “Take Along Guide” collection is a wonderful series of non-fiction books. Learn about seashells, crabs, and sea stars, caterpillars and butterflies, eggs and nests, trees, leaves, and bark, and more!

• “Once Upon a Starry Night: a Book of Constellations” by Jacqueline Mitton and illustrated by Christina Balit brings the sky to life with animals and people that emerge in the glowing patterns of stars.

• “Pop! A Book About Bubbles” is one book in the “Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out-Science” series that features photographs of children on each topic. How fun to blow bubbles, send them off into the warm summer sky, and then learn how and why they work!

There are also plenty of stories about summertime activities that feature children on adventures picking berries or chasing after butterflies.

• “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McClosky is a classic written in 1949 that young children today will still find fascinating. As a mother and daughter set off to pick blueberries so they will have some fruit to can for the winter, a mother bear and her cub set off to find blueberries to eat on the same hillside. As the story unfolds, we see how both mothers and the two children have more in common than just loving blueberries.

• “Summer Days and Nights” by Wong Herbert Yee was just published in 2012. This is a delightful story of a little girl enjoying a beautiful summer day from sun-up to bedtime. Told in gently rhyming verse the author describes the delights of daytime and nighttime summer fun, which will give you and your child many ideas for things to do and explore.

• “Beach Day” by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith, is a favorite of very young children. Two-year-olds will love the sandy beach images and the sing-song text. “Waves roar, rush and soar! Rolling, crashing to the shore.” From water-skiers to picnic blankets, this book encompasses an entire joy-filled day at the ocean.

After you read a new book together, you will most likely learn some new words that you can put right to use as you enjoy time as a family. Happy summer reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, family reading, science books

The Joy of Reading to Grandchildren

Grandparents are special people. As a grandparent you are a veteran at raising children. You’ve lived through diapers, tantrums, and your child driving your car. Although some things have changed since your kids were young, sharing books together is still one of the best ways to connect with children in a meaningful way. Whether close by or far away, slow down and treat yourself to quality time reading with your grandchildren and you will be creating memories that will last their lifetime.

Here are some ways to share the joy books and words with grandchildren:

• When you visit, bring a new book as a gift for each grandchild or visit a bookstore together to pick out a book. Adding an inscription makes the book a keepsake.

• If you live close to your grandchildren, plan a regular night of the week for reading aloud to them. Parents can go out or stay home and listen in! As your grandchildren get older, you can enjoy longer books by reading chapters in installments. If you live far away, you can use skpe.com to read via video or you can read aloud by phone.

• Find a book from your grown-up son’s or daughter’s childhood and give it as a very special gift to your grandchildren. Read it together and talk about which parts were favorites of their parent.

• Help your grandchildren make a card for a relative or friend, decorating the outside. What message does your grandchild want you to put in the card? Help him or her write it.

• Send a letter or postcard to your grandchildren when you travel or just send a card from your home saying hello.  If you are comfortable with the Internet, send an email. Your grandchild probably has his or her own email address.

• Give a note to your grandchild with a joke, riddle or poem written on it. Practice telling it together and then you and your grandchild can try to memorize it for the next time you visit.

• Clip out articles from the newspaper about things that interest your grandchild and send them in the mail for him or her to read.

• If you are helping to raise your grandchildren, make sure that books are a special part of your daily routine. Read books aloud after school, at bedtime and on weekends.

Here are a few of the many wonderful children’s picture books that feature grandparents:

• “Luka’s Quilt,” by Georgia Guback, is an intergenerational book set in Hawaii. Luka and her grandmother, “Tutu,” have a very close relationship until they have a disagreement about the colors that Tutu chooses for the quilt she is making for her granddaughter. The two find a very honest and loving resolution for their differences.

• “Grandfather’s Journey” by Allen Say tells the story of a boy’s recollection of his grandfather making a boat trip from Japan to live in the United States, but still missing his homeland.

• “I Love Saturdays y Domingos” by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier is a story about a young girl’s alternating visits with two sets of grandparents every other Saturday.

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, family reading, grandparents

Emergent Readers

It is truly magical when a child learns to read. The hidden messages on the pages of a book are revealed; the mystery of a story discovered. All the time you have spent sharing books together before this, have given your child the motivation to learn to read. Your child knows that books are full of adventure, feelings, facts and fun. Now that your child can access the magic of books on his or her own, it is amazing!

Your emergent reader will still benefit from hearing books read aloud, but will most likely be proud to read aloud to someone else. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends can all be good listeners. Even pets and stuffed animals can be included. Books that your child has heard you read aloud are familiar and may be a natural choice for your child to read. But books new to your child hold a treasure of excitement as they are read for the first time.

Praising your child’s efforts at reading will go a long way in establishing your child’s confidence in being able to read. Reading is a skill to be practiced and learned. Reading aloud gives a child the opportunity to pronounce words and speak in a natural cadence. It also gives the listener a chance to gently guide the early reader into sounding out or using context to approach new vocabulary.

Asking questions about the story can check your child’s comprehension. When your child has finished a page of reading, ask about the characters in the story. What will happen next, or what is the character thinking or feeling? Does your child know the meaning of what he or she read?

Your child will enjoy picking out books that are interesting to him or her, but steer the choice of books to a level that is appropriate for your early reader. Many books have been written especially for early readers and are labeled as such right on the cover of the book.

Save longer, more complex books for an adult to read to the child. Remember that beginning readers are veteran listeners (Jim Trelease, “The Read Aloud Handbook”) and can understand a higher level of book read aloud than they can read on their own. Keep reading to your child, even when they read to you!

Suggested books for early readers:

“Are you My Mother?” By P.D. Eastman. A little bird looks everywhere for his mother. His ideas of the identity his mother may be appeal to a child’s sense of humor.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” By Eric Carle. The sing-song text goes through the names of colors and animals and makes reference to school.

“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. An unusual series of events takes place before this mouse ever gets his snack.

“Ira Sleeps Over” by Bernard Waber. Ira wants to spend the night at his friend’s house, but doesn’t know if his teddy bear is too childish to bring.

“The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss. Repetition and rhyme make the text of this book predictable.

Leave a comment

Filed under easy readers, family reading, read-aloud resources

Reading Magic

Internationally renowned literacy expert and children’s book author Mem Fox says in her book “Reading Magic,” “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud – it’s the relationship winding between all three, bring them together in easy harmony.”

When we read aloud to children we are not specifically teaching them how to read, but instilling in them a love of reading and books. Each book we read aloud enriches the path the child takes toward eventually reading on his or her own.

Three and four-year-olds who have had daily experiences with books in their young lives will start making the connection between the letters on the page and the sounds they represent, then the words printed in a book and what is read aloud. They will see that the illustrations also tell the story.

At some point children will begin to recognize some words and be able to recite a favorite book from memory. They will start to anticipate what happens next in a story and join in as you say a repeated phrase in the book. All of the ways a child enjoys books and stories now will give the child the confidence to want to learn to read, and will become strategies the child will use later on to read books independently.

Preschoolers enjoy stories that have suspense and resolution, humor and emotion. Try reading books that require more complex thinking, such as the following titles:

“The Three Little Javelinas” by Susan Lowell, illustrated by Jim Harris, is a retelling of the classic three little pigs story with spicy, southwestern vocabulary. This is a non-violent (no one gets eaten!) and humorous version of an old favorite.

“Francis the Scaredy Cat” by Ed Boxall. The darkness and strange sounds of the night are just the beginning of the not-too-scary things that worry Francis the cat. Your pre-schooler may have some of the same concerns and will be comforted by how it all works out for Francis.

“When the Moon Fell Down” by Linda Smith and Kathryn Brown is a night-time adventure. What would happen if the moon saw the world from the point of view of a friendly cow? The rhyming text tells the story in a melodic waltz accompanied by soft watercolor illustrations.

Create your own literacy sparks by reading aloud to your child. For more information about author Mem Fox, visit her website at http://www.memfox.com. Happy family reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under family reading, read-aloud resources