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Archive for Book List

Read Aloud Magic – Ignite a FLAME that becomes a Passion for Lifelong Reading

Flame read aloud, read aloud magic, read aloud to kids

*Warning, the post you are about to read is VERY long, but just may bring a little reading magic to your child’s life!

As parents, caregivers, and teachers we are bombarded with information about the need to read to children every single day. I believe in children needing to be read to like I believe in their need for nutritious food, for shelter, or for warm clothes in the winter. Reading to children is THAT essential. There is so much information about the benefits of reading aloud to children that I don’t need to write about it here. Many other people have already written about it so well. Here are just a few great places to learn more about both the benefits of reading aloud to children, and the research statistics that back up those claims.

Jim Trelease - The Read Aloud Handbook

Jim Trelease is the Grandfather of the read-aloud movement. He has written, The Read-Aloud Handbook, and it is one of the definitive books about reading aloud to children, Mr. Trelease has spent much of his adult life traveling the country trying to convince people of all walks of life to read more great books to children. If I were to recommend just one book about reading aloud to anyone, it would be his book. He also has a website, and lots of good information about the importance of reading aloud.

Reading aloud to kids, flame read alouds, read aloud magic, mem fox

Another great book about reading aloud is Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by the terrific Australian children’s book author Mem Fox.

reading aloud to kids, how to get your child to love reading, flame read alouds, read aloud magic

One more resource that I really love is How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell.  It is filled with fun ideas and activities to pair with books.  She has a website too.

Some more good information from The Children’s Reading Foundation

Even more good stuff from Reading is Fundamental (RIF)


But what I want to write about is how to make the most out of the time you spend reading aloud. It is one of the things that I am especially passionate about, and there are many simple ways that you can take an everyday read-aloud experience and SUPERCHARGE it, so that it has the magical power to draw your child into the life-long love of reading club! I don’t want to scare you. I know that you are overworked and underpaid! Sometimes it is really difficult to even get the reading time in, now I’m telling you to BOOST it up? To do even MORE? Don’t panic! I’m not here to stress you out. I just want to provide you with some information that you can use to make some simple additions to your read-aloud routine that will really make a difference for the children in your life.


I made up an acronym for my read-aloud plan to make it easier to remember. I’m using the term FLAME read-alouds because I want kids to be soooo passionate about books and about reading that they are drawn to them like moths to ….er, well, a flame.


To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.
—Victor Hugo


Tracy, I read to kids EVERY day! Why should I go to all of the trouble of creating special read-alouds?

~ Read-alouds are the VERY best teaching opportunities in your trick bag! They are the greatest occasions  you have for enticing a child into the world of reading.

~A child who wants to read will read, a child who reads has the WORLD at his or her fingertips!

~Even when a child has a disability that makes learning to read difficult, if s/he loves books, and loves stories, it will make him or her more likely to put in all of the extra effort needed to learn.


Frederick Douglass reading quote, reading to kids, read aloud magic,

This is one of my favorite places, right outside my favorite bookstore.

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
   —Frederick Douglass

So what does FLAME stand for?:








F is for FUN!

Fun is the first thing you should keep in mind when planning a FLAME read-aloud!

Why fun? Because, if books are not fun, children will not want to hear them, or read them. If they do not read they will not be readers.

Read aloud magic, flame read aloud, babies reading

Don’t these sweet boys look like they are having fun?


A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.
—Mark Twain

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift.

—Kate DiCamillo

Read aloud magic, flame read alouds, babies reading

A room full of toys, and this boy wants books!

L is for LOVE

LOVE is perhaps the most important part of a FLAME read-aloud.

~Children learn to love reading when someone they love reads to them. The love transfers!

~Children learn to love reading when the people they love and respect love to read.

The LOVE is contagious!

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
—Emilie Buchwald
I would add any person that children love and care about

real men read, read aloud magic, flame read aloud


read aloud magic, flame read alouds, grandparents read, kids reading

Grammas make lovely READERS too!

reading to kids, read aloud magic, flame read alouds

This guy likes to choose his own books.


A is for Active!

~Children should be active participants in the read-aloud experience (this includes being actively engaged in making book selections).

~Active is the root word for activity, and I think there can always be an interesting activity for a book that enhances and extends the experience. These special activities make a book memorable, and build the LOVE and the FUN.

reading aloud to kids, flame read aloud, read aloud magic

After reading activities involve children in the entire experience of a story. The best ones deepen understanding, and should be FUN. Because…

M is for Movement and Music!

~Kids need to move. If kids want and need to move, and we don’t let them, they will see read-alouds as restrictive. Restrictive = NOT FUN! Why not build FUN and organized movement into your read-alouds for young children?

~Music is fun, most kids love it, and it is another wonderful way to add activity, engagement and fun into your read-alouds. Music could include sing-alongs, recorded music, songbooks, or instruments.


A book is a device to ignite the imagination.
–Alan Bennett

Make the most of it.

reading to kids, flame read aloud, read aloud magic

E is for Engagement and Entertainment

You want to try to make the book so fun, so engaging, so interesting, and so memorable that kids are completely invested in hearing it. You want them to feel there isn’t anything that they would rather do!

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
—Jacqueline Kennedy

Did you notice I didn’t mention learning?

But Tracy, What About the Learning?  We need to choose books children can learn from!

boys reading, read aloud, learning from books, flame read alouds

You cannot open a book without learning something

You don’t need to choose books with good morals, good values, good lessons to learn, good vocabulary. Just choose good books! Kids WILL learn from them.
It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own
—Katherine Patterson

Good books are the books that children LOVE!  Don’t worry about learning!  Worry about love!

boys reading, read alouds, flame read alouds, reading together

Only Two Things Truly Determine the Success of a Read–Aloud…
1. The Book

2. The Reader

reading to kids, flame read alouds, read aloud magic

1. Pick a Great Book!

A book with high entertainment value should be:

~a book YOU love, really like or have enthusiasm for.

~ Appropriate for the age, development, interests, and number of children in your audience
~ a story with a strong plot (that begins quickly and moves along with good action), interesting characters, and an engaging problem/solution
~ well illustrated (if illustrated)
And will most likely be one or more of the following:
~ silly
~ funny
~ timely (matches an interest, activity, holiday, situation, etc., that is timely)
~ written with a strong, rhyme, rhythm, cadence, and/or drama

 reading to kids, read aloud magic, flame read alouds

  1. Read It Well!

This will take reading the book beforehand, and a bit of prep, but it is worth it!

~Make it a performance, but don’t stress. Fluency and effort go a LONG way.

~Look for ways to emphasize cadences, rhythms, sound words, or special words.

~Identify places where you can punch up a text with your voice…
~character voices and vocal sound effects
~changing the volume (both soft and loud)
~focusing on, and changing pacing (fast/slow) as appropriate.


The more you read, the better you get, the more better you get, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
– Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook


So, how do you create a FLAME worthy read aloud?

Why with three easy planning steps of course!

1.Planning for BEFORE you read

 2.Planning for READING

3. Planning for AFTER you read


Setting the Stage – Planning for BEFORE reading

~Choose your book very carefully.

~Make it a great “fit” for your audience.

-What does your audience like? What can they relate to?

~What is going on in the lives of children that you can tie a book to?

-How complex a story can your audience handle?

-Is this a story that will knock their socks off?

~Do a dress rehearsal. Practice the book out loud before you read it to an audience!!! This is a very important step!


A read-aloud is a very special experience, with amazing possibilities. There are many books that are wonderful, but are not the right fit for reading aloud.

reading to kids, read alouds, read aloud magic, flame read alouds

Ready to perform?! Yes, I am dressed like a wizard to read to my son’s preschool class!

Time to READ! Time to Perform!

It really does help to think of it as a performance

~ Use your voice!

~Use your facial expressions.

~Use gestures.

~Use pacing effectively. Use pauses to create drama, suspense, humor, etc.

~Use props when appropriate (puppets, signs, pictures, flannels, etc.)

~Think about how you can encourage your audience to participate (questions, allowing children to call out a predicted word, use hand movements, etc.)

reading to kids, read aloud magic, flame read alouds, celebrate a book

AFTER Party – Celebrate the Book!
There is always a cast party; why not throw a book party!

~Find a way to celebrate the book in some way…

~Talk about parts you liked or didn’t like.

~Put the book out for children to explore independently later.

~Extend or enhance the story with fun activities such as cooking, a craft, an art project, read a related book or poem, sing a related song.

~Retell the story with: puppets, flannel board, play mats, dramatic play, photographs, student created video, etc.

have fun with books, read alouds, flame read alouds, book activities

Make the experience ENGAGING and FUN.

I’ve got just one more question for you…

How will you help spark the LOVE of reading for the children in your life?


Cat in the Hat, Seuss, read aloud magic, flame read alouds, reading to kids

A winning performance!


If you are looking for ideas…I have been collecting some great ones.  I have created a list of

“Shining Star” read-aloud books that are all kid tested, and have always been winners with everyone I have read them with.  To check the list out, just click here.   I have also have many boards on Pinterest that are filled with ideas for activities.  Here are some of the boards, with great ideas from all around the web, that might spark and idea or a flame!

Shining Star Read-Aloud Books: Kid Tested and Mother Approved

Shining Star Read-Aloud Books pic

If you are like me, you are always on the look out for books that are just meant to be read aloud to children.  I compiled this list of books that have been no-fail, go to read-alouds for me both in the classroom and at home with my boys.  I hope you find something here that you, and the children in your life will love.

Infants (Birth- 1 year)

Hello Baby! by Mem Fox and Steve Jenkins

Oink, Moo, Meow (Say & Play) by Inc. Sterling Publishing Co.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw

If I Were a Cow… by Anne Wilkinson (Jul 28, 2013)

Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children (Jul 1, 2007)

Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla and Amy Cordova (Mar 9, 2010)

Tabbed Board Books: My First Words: Let’s Get Talking! (TAB BOARD BOOKS) by DK Publishing (Mar 17, 2008)

Hip, Hop by Catherine Hnatov (Sep 15, 2010)

My First Taggies Book: I Love You by Kaori Watanabe and Kaori Wantanabe (Sep 1, 2004)

That’s Not My Kitten by Fiona Watt (2007)

“More More More,” Said the Baby Board Book (Caldecott Collection) by Vera B. Williams (Sep 22, 1997)

Fuzzy Bee and Friends (Cloth Books) by Roger Priddy (Sep 13, 2003)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (Jan 23, 2007)


Early Toddler – Ages 1-2

Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden (Feb 1, 2000)

Trains Go by Steve Light (Jan 25, 2012)

Cows Can’t Jump by Dave Reisman and Jason A. Maas (Oct 19, 2008)

Where is Baby’s Mommy? by Karen Katz (Apr 1, 2001)

Bunnies Near and Far by Sarah Jones (Apr 1, 2014)

Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Rod Campbell (May 8, 2007)

Pooh (Giant Board Book) by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard (Jun 1, 1999)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (Sep 15, 1996)

Duck & Goose by Tad Hills (Jan 24, 2006)

One Pup’s Up by Marsha Wilson Chall and Henry Cole (Jun 15, 2010)

Joshua’s Night Whispers by Angela Johnson (Sep 1, 1994)


Older Toddler – Age 2-3

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley (1992)

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You : Dr. Seuss’s Book of Wonderful Noises (Bright and Early Board Books) by Dr. Seuss

Little Blue Truck Board Book by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry (Oct 19, 2009)

Where Is the Green Sheep? / by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek

Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis (Mar 5, 2001)

The Busy Little Squirrel (Classic Board Books) by Nancy Tafuri

The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! by Mo Willems

Come Along, Daisy! by Jane Simmons

My Truck Is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk

I Dream of an Elephant (Abbeville Kids) by Ami Rubinger

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown

From Head to Toe Board Book by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith


Preschool (Ages 3-5)

The Magic Hat by Mem Fox and Tricia Tusa

Dinosaurumpus! by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees

Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore and Nancy Carpenter

Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino and Steven Kellogg

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina

The Pout-Pout Fish (A Pout-Pout Fish Adventure) by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton and Valeria Petrone

Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin

Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood and Audrey Wood

Otis by Loren Long

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

Cows in the Kitchen by June Crebbin and Katharine McEwen

Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman, David Clemesha and Dan Yaccarino

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas


Grades K-2

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Twenty Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mark Lee and Kurt Cyrus

I Am So Strong by Mario Ramos


Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa by Gerald McDermott

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (Aladdin Picture Books) by Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman

Tops & Bottoms (Caldecott Honor Book) by Janet Stevens

The Adventures of Taxi Dog by Debra Barracca, Sal Barracca and Mark Buehner

Small Green Snake by Libba Moore Gray and Holly Meade

Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack and Henry Cole

Anansi and the Talking Melon by Eric A. Kimmel and Janet Stevens

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems


Halloween Read-Aloud Treats!

Spooky Spooky Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan

Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino

Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’connell and Jennifer Barrett O’Connell

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The Spooky Box by Mark Gonyea

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams and Megan Lloyd

Happy Reading!

Tracy :-)

Our Top 11 Bunny Rabbit Picture Books

Great Picture Books about Bunny Rabbits - Just in Time for Spring and Easter

Spring is in the air, and with the spring temps come the “hop-hops” as my Littles lovingly call them.  My little boys are absolutely fascinated with bunny rabbits, and they LOVE reading about them in books!  I mean LOVE!  Here is an assortment of the bunny books we are reading and reading and reading at our house right now. 


1.  Tops and Bottoms – written and Illustrated by Janet Stevens

I can’t say enough about this book.  It is a clever, funny, and amazingly illustrated re-telling of a Trickster Tale.  It is a great read aloud for K-3.

Bunnies cover 2

2.  Bunnies – written and illustrated by Alex Kuskowski  ♥♥♥♥

Little Z. and Little B. absolutely love this book.  It is an early reader informational book, and is part of a series on baby animals.  Bunnies would work well as an introduction to the format of informational text, and because each page is short and and easy to read, it would be useful in teaching non-fiction comprehension skills as well.  The large and clear photographs of baby bunnies are a stand-out, and keep my boys happy for a long time!  This is a book that works on several levels.  (Baby-1)

 Zomo the rabbit cover

3.  Zomo the Rabbit – written and illustrated by Gerald McDermott

Another clever trickster tale (a favorite sub-genre of mine), that is funny, and so well illustrated.  This is another book that makes a great read aloud for K-2.

 Bunny Cake

4. Bunny Cakes – written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

The boys love adventures with Max and Ruby!  The interaction between the siblings is priceless, and the gentle humor and preschool friendly illustrations make this a great toddler read aloud choice. (Baby-K)


5.  Knuffle Bunny – written and illustrated by Mo Willems

We are big Mo Willems fans, and this book is one of the tops.  It is fun for the grown-ups and kids alike.  The mixture of photographs and cartoon illustrations fascinates the kids, and we all love the humor. (K-3 + parents and caregivers)

so many bunnies

6. So Many Bunnies – written by Rich Walton and illustrated by Paige Miglio ♥♥♥♥

Walton and Miglio have collaborated on several wonderful books about bunnies with human characteristics, but right now the Littles love this one the best.  It is a rhyming and ABC book that works well as a bedtime read aloud.  My boys love seeing all of the places where the bunnies sleep! (Baby-pre-K)

  Bunnies Cover

7.  Richard Scarry’s Bunnies – written and illustrated by Richard Scarry

This is Little Z.’s personal favorite.  It is an old school Little Golden Book, but it definitely holds up for the toddler set.  It is very sweet and has subtle humor too.  It is a great lap book to read while snuggling a sweet toddler! (Baby)


8.  Too Many Bunnies – written and illustrated by Matt Novak

This book is funny and interactive and features a “fluffle” of bunnies who are trying to find larger quarters.  They hop from hole to hole only to fill each one to the brim.  The interactive features are much loved around here. (Baby-K)

 Bunnies Near and Far

9.  Bunnies Near and Far – written and illustrated by Sarah Jones

This is a wonderful concept book that features opposites and basic counting with a wonderful rhyming pattern.  Some rhyming books try too hard, but this one really works.  (Baby-K)

 The Bunnies' Picnic

10. The Bunnies Picnic – written by Leslie Jones and illustrated by Kay Chorao ♥♥♥

The Littles just had their first picnic a few days ago, and so this book about bunnies AND picnics is in heavy rotation.  The boys all love how the bunnies don’t give up when their delicious stew is ruined and they have to start over. (Pre-K – 1)

The bunnies are not in their beds 

11.  The Bunnies are Not in Their Beds – written and illustrated by Marisabina Russo ♥♥♥♥

 This book has a very inviting cover, the illustrations are fresh and fabulous, and features bunny kids who won’t go to bed no matter how exasperated their parents get.  It is a fun read aloud that features lots of fun sound words to spice up the engagement.  (Pre-K-1)

Pat the Bunny cover

+1 Bonus Bunny – Pat the Bunny written and illustrated by Dorothy Kunhardt ♥♥♥♥♥

A classic (written in 1940), Pat the Bunny is the original touch and feel book.  The interactive qualities and the simple illustrations and text make an absolute must have, and a real winner for babies and toddlers.  We are on our fifth copy right now because each one has been well loved by children who really want to pat the bunny over and over. (Baby-Toddler)

If you now have bunnies on the brain and want to keep the bunny magic going at your house…you could try this super cute bunny rabbit “jumping jack” craft.

Did you know that there were so many books about bunny rabbits???  Do you have any favorites that you would like to recommend???  I’d love to hear about them!

Happy Reading!

 Tracy ;-)













Back to school book cover collage (buffalo)

I was going to write a bit about handwriting instruction this week, but life intervened a bit, and I got a different idea.  Big A. and I had a park play date with his best friend from preschool this week.  We hadn’t seen M. since the last day of school, and A. was excited to see her.  During their play and conversations, the topic of kindergarten came up a lot.  M. will start kindergarten in a public school next week, and she is worried.  Even though M. attended preschool 5 days a week for two years (as did A.) the transition to kindergarten seems daunting and worrisome to both her and her mother.  Even though A. will not be going off to the big elementary school this year, I still remember very vividly the period of anxiety leading up to A.’s first day of preschool. 

 Whether your little one is going off to preschool for the first time, or is going to start kindergarten this fall, there are many books that can help ease the transition, build excitement for school, and make parents and kids feel better.  There are also several books on the list that would make good read-alouds in a classroom at the start of the year.  I have formally reviewed eight books here that we have really enjoyed here in the School4Boys family, and I have included a few other titles that might interest/help you as well.


Click on the title of each book, and it will take you to my book review.

Bunny School Cover

Bunny School: A Learning Fun-for-All (Walton & Miglio, 2005)

 Foxy cover pic

Foxy (Dodd, 2012)

 Is your Buffalo Ready for kindergarten cover pic 3

Is Your Buffalo Ready For Kindergarten (Vernick & Jennewein, 2010)

 Llama Llama Misses Mama 2

Llama Llama Misses Mama (Dewdney, 2009)

 Pete the Cat- Rocking In My School Shoes Cover pic

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes (Litwin & Dean, 2011)

 Welcome to Kindergarten cover pic

Welcome to Kindergarten (Rockwell, 2001)

 When You Go to Kindergarten cover pic

When You Go To Kindergarten (Howe and Imershein, 1994)

 Wow! School! Cover pic

Wow! School! (Neubecker, 2007)


I learned a few things by reading a big stack of “Back To School” picture books.  There are MANY books about school written for young children.  Some are MUCH better than others.  I started collecting many of the books I reviewed here two years ago when Big A. was getting ready to start preschool for the first time and we were both nervous.  At the time the books that appealed most to him were books that were very reassuring.  These favorite books didn’t focus too much on the fears children might have, but rather put a happy spin on the routines and activities of school.  Being able to see what a school building, a school day, and a typical classroom and activities would look like really helped prepare A. for what he would soon experience himself.  A good story didn’t hurt either!  A book’s illustrations were particularly important for us because they allowed us to see and talk about school. 

A Few After Reading Activities…

The books that have photographic illustrations lend themselves well to comparison and contrast opportunities.  After we visited A.’s new school and classroom we took some pictures.  When we got home we printed the pictures out, and then talked about things in his new classroom, and the ways that his classroom and school were similar to and different from the books we had read and the pictures we had seen.

We also created a homemade book with pictures from A.’s school and classroom glued or taped to paper.  I let A tell me about each picture, and then I wrote his statements below the pictures as captions.


I’m a big believer in the idea there isn’t much in life that a book can’t make better!  I hope that if you pick up some of these books for your soon to be preschoolers or Kindergarteners, they will help you ease into school.  Big A. and I will be rereading some of these this coming week in order to get our heads into school mode!

Happy Reading!

Tracy :-)