*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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
So what does FLAME stand for?:
F – FUN
L – LOVE
A – ACTIVITY
M – MUSIC AND MOVEMENT
E – ENGAGEMENT and ENTERTAINMENT
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.
A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.
Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.
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.
I would add any person that children love and care about
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.
After reading activities involve children in the entire experience of a story. The best ones deepen understanding, and should be FUN. Because…
FUN + BOOKS = BOOK LOVE!
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.
Make the most of it.
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.
Did you notice I didn’t mention learning?
But Tracy, What About the Learning? We need to choose books children can learn from!
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
Good books are the books that children LOVE! Don’t worry about learning! Worry about love!
Only Two Things Truly Determine the Success of a Read–Aloud…
1. The Book
2. The Reader
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:
~ timely (matches an interest, activity, holiday, situation, etc., that is timely)
~ written with a strong, rhyme, rhythm, cadence, and/or drama
- 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.
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 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.)
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.
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?
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!