About Jim Trelease...
Before his career path lead him into the education arena, he was an award winning artist and journalist. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts and native of New Jersey, Jim Trelease now resides in Springfield, Massachusetts, with his wife, Susan.
While working for a daily newspaper in Massachusetts, he and his wife were raising their two children. Following the example set for him by his father, Jim established a daily ritual of reading aloud to his children.
During this time he was also making volunteer visits to classrooms in his community, talking to students about journalism and art as careers. Through these classroom visits he became aware that most of the students didn't incorporate reading in their daily lives. The students who were avid readers almost always came from classrooms where the teachers read aloud daily and incorporated sustained silent reading into the daily routine.
As he researched the research that was available concerning the connection between being read to and how much children wanted to read, he discovered that there was an abundance of information written supporting this correlation. However, these documents were not easily accessible to most people.
This scarce supply of accessible material served as his inspiration to write and self-publish the first edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979. "I self-published because I never thought any of the major publishers would be interested in it. At that point,'reading aloud' was too simple and not painful enough to do the child any good. At least, that's what many people thought," he said. But that concept changed as The Read-Aloud Handbook gained attention from several influential sources.
The Read-Aloud Handbook (5th Edition)
by Jim Trelease
$12.00 from Amazon.com
Read All About It! Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, and Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens
by Jim Trelease (Editor)
$11.16 from Amazon.com
Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children
by William F. Russell
$9.60 from Amazon.com
Choosing Books for Children : A Common-sense Guide
by Betsy Hearne
$11.96 from Amazon.com
Educating Esme : Diary of a Teacher's First Year
by Esme Raji Codell, Jim Trelease (Afterword)
$13.26 from Amazon.com
Blueberries for Sal
by Robert McCloskey
$13.59 from Amazon.com
by Robert McCloskey
$13.50 from Amazon.com
A Guide for Using Tuck Everlasting in the Classroom
by Caroline Nakajima, Patricia Miriani
$7.95 from Amazon.com
Reading Magic - Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever
by Mem Fox
$9.60 from Amazon.com
The Do's and Don'ts of Read-Aloud|
by Jim Trelease
Reprinted with Mr. Trelease's permission from The Read Aloud Handbook.
|Writing begins long before the marriage of pencil and paper. It begins with sounds, that is to say with words and simple clusters of words that are taken in by small children until they find themselves living in a world of vocables. If that world is rich and exciting, the transition to handling it in a new medium--writing--is made smoother. The first and conceivably the most important instructor in composition is the teacher, parent, or older sibling who reads aloud to the small child.
Empty Pages: A Search for Writing Competence in School and Society
- Begin reading to children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier and better it is.
- Use Mother Goose rhymes and songs to stimulate an infant's language and listening. Simple black and white illustrations at first, and then boldly colored picture books arouse children's curiosity and visual sense.
- With infants through toddlers, it is critically important to include in your readings those books that contain repetitions; as they mature, add predictable books.
- During repeat readings of a predictable book, occasionally stop at one of the key words or phrases and allow the listener to provide the word.
- Read as often as you and the child (or students) have time for.
- Set aside at least one traditional time each day for a story.
- Remember: the art of listening is an acquired one. It must be taught and cultivated gradually--it doesn't happen overnight.
- Start with picture books, with only a few sentences on the page, then gradually move to books with more and more text, fewer pictures, and then to chapter books and novels.
- Vary the length and subject matter of your readings.
- To encourage involvement, invite the child to turn pages for you when it is time.
- Before you begin to read, always say the name of the book, the author, and illustrator-no matter how many times you have read the book.
- The first time you read a book, discuss the illustration on the cover. "What do you think this is going to be about?"
- As you read, if you sense the audience's attention drifting, gain them back by asking, "What do you think is going to happen next?"
- Follow through with your reading. If you start a book, it is your responsibility to continue it--unless it turns out to be a bad book. Don't leave the child or students hanging for three or four days between chapters and expect interest to be sustained.
- Occasionally read above children's intellectual level and challenge their minds.
- Picture books can be read easily to a family of children widely separated in age. Novels, however, pose a challenge. If there are more than two years between the children (and thus social and emotional differences), each child would benefit greatly if you read to him or her individually. This requires more effort on the part of the parents but it will reap rewards in direct proportion to the effort expended. You will reinforce the specialness of each child.
- Avoid long descriptive passages until the child's imagination and attention span are capable of handling them. There is nothing wrong with shortening or eliminating them. Prereading helps to locate such passages and they can then be marked with pencil in the margin.
- If the chapters are long or if you don't have enough time each day to finish an entire chapter, find a suspenseful spot at which to stop. Leave the audience hanging; they'll be counting the minutes until the next reading.
- Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their feet and minds to the story. If it's a novel, begin by asking what happened when you left off yesterday. Mood is an important factor in listening. An authoritarian "Now stop that and settle down! Sit up straight. Pay attention" doesn't create a receptive atmosphere.
- If you are reading a picture book, make sure the children can see the pictures easily. In school, with the children in a semicircle around you, seat yourself just slightly above them so that the children in the back row can see the pictures above the heads of the others.
- In reading a novel, position yourself where both you and the children are comfortable. In the classroom, whether you are sitting on the edge of your desk or standing, your head should be above the heads of your listeners for your voice to carry to the far side of the room. Do not read or stand in front of brightly lit windows. Backlighting strains the eyes of your audience.
- Remember that even sixth-grade students love a good picture book.
- Allow time for class and home discussion after reading a story. Thoughts, hopes, fears, and discoveries are aroused by a book. Allow them to surface and help the child to deal with them through verbal, written, or artistic expression if the child is so inclined. Do not turn discussions into quizzes or insist upon prying story interpretations from the child.
- Remember that reading aloud comes naturally to very few people. To do it successfully and with ease you must practice.
- Use plenty of expression when reading. If possible, change your tone of voice to fit the dialogue.
- Adjust your pace to fit the story. During a suspenseful part, slow down, and lower your voice. A lowered voice in the right place moves an audience to the edge of its chairs.
- The most common mistake in reading aloud--whether the reader is a seven-year-old or a forty-year-old-is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read. Slow down enough for the children to see the pictures in the book without feeling hurried. Reading quickly allows no time for the reader to use vocal expression.
- Preview the book by reading it to yourself ahead of time. Such advance reading allows you to spot material you may wish to shorten, eliminate, or elaborate on.
- Bring the author to life, as well as his book. Consult Something About the Author at the library, and always read the information on your book's dust jacket. Either before or during the reading, tell your audience something about the author. Let them know that books are written about people, not by machines. You also can accomplish this by encouraging individual children (not the class collectively--many authors hate assembly correspondence) to write and share feelings about the book with the author. Something About the Author will provide an address, or you can write care of the publisher. It is important to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope just in case the author has time to respond. The child should understand from the start that the letter's purpose is not to receive a response. (See Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, for more on this touchy subject.)
- Add a third dimension to the book whenever possible. For example: have a bowl of blueberries ready to be eaten during or after the reading of Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal; bring a harmonica and a lemon to class before reading McCloskey's Lentil.
- Every once in a while, when a child asks a question involving the text, make a point of looking up the answer in a reference book with the child. This greatly expands a child's knowledge base and nurtures library skills.
- Create a wall chart or back-of-the-bedroom-door book chart so the child or class can see how much has been read; images of caterpillars, snakes, worms, and trains work well for this purpose, with each link representing a book. Similarly, post a world or U.S. wall map where small stickers can be attached to locations where your books have occurred.
- When children are old enough to distinguish between library books and their own, start reading with a pencil in hand. When you and the child encounter a passage worth remembering, put a small mark--maybe a star--in the margin. Readers should interact with books and one way is to acknowledge beautiful writing.
- Encourage relatives living far away to record stories on audiocassettes that can be mailed to the child.
- Reluctant readers or unusually active children frequently find it difficult to just sit and listen. Paper, crayons, and pencils allow them to keep their hands busy while listening. (You doodle while talking on the telephone, don't you?)
- Follow the suggestion of Dr. Caroline Bauer and post a reminder sign by your door: "Don't Forget Your Flood Book." Analogous to emergency rations in case of natural disasters, these books should be taken along in the car, or even stored like spares in the trunk. A few chapters from "flood" books can be squeezed into traffic jams on the way to the beach or long waits at the dentist's office.
- Always have a supply of books for the babysitter to share with the child and make it understood that "reading aloud" comes with the job, long before the TV is used.
- Fathers should make an extra effort to read to their children. Because the vast majority of primary-school teachers are women, young boys often associate reading with women and schoolwork. And just as unfortunate, too many fathers would rather be seen playing catch in the driveway with their sons than taking them to the library. It is not by chance that most of the students in U.S. remedial-reading classes are boys. A father's early involvement with books and reading can do much to elevate books to at least the same status as sports in a boy's estimation.
- Arrange for time each day, in the classroom or in the home, for the child to read by himself (even if "read" only means turning pages and looking at the pictures). All your read-aloud motivation goes for naught if the time is not available to put it into practice.
- Lead by example. Make sure your children see you reading for pleasure other than at read-aloud time. Share with them your enthusiasm for whatever you are reading.
- When children wish to read to you, it is better for the book to be too easy than too hard, just as it is better that a beginner's bicycle be too small than too big.
- Encourage older children to read to younger ones, but make this a part-time, not a full-time substitution for you. Remember: the adult is the ultimate role model.
- Regulate the amount of time children spend in front of the television. Research shows that after about ten TV hours a week, a child's school scores begin to drop. Excessive television viewing is habit-forming and damaging to a child's development.
- When children are watching television, closed-captioning should be activated along with sound. But for older children who know how to read but are lazy about it, turn the volume off and captioning on.
- Don't read stories that you don't enjoy yourself. Your dislike will show in the reading, and that defeats your purpose.
- Don't continue reading a book once it is obvious that it was a poor choice. Admit the mistake and choose another. Make sure, however, that you've given the book a fair chance to get rolling; some, like Tuck Everlasting, start slower than others. (You can avoid the problem by prereading at least part of the book yourself.
- If you are a teacher, don't feel you have to tie every book to class work. Don't confine the broad spectrum of literature to the narrow limits of the curriculum.
- Don't overwhelm your listener. Consider the intellectual, social, and emotional level of your audience in making a read-aloud selection. Never read above a child's emotional level.
- Don't select a book that many of the children already have heard or seen on television. Once a novel's plot is known, much of their interest is lost. You can, however, read a book and view the video afterward. That's a good way for children to see how much more can be portrayed in print than on film.
- In choosing novels for reading aloud, avoid books that are heavy with dialogue; they are difficult reading aloud and listening. All those indented paragraphs and quotations make for easy silent reading. The reader sees the quotations marks and knows it is a new voice, a different person speaking--but the listener doesn't. And if the writer fails to include a notation at the end of the dialogue, like "said Mrs. Murphy," the audience has no idea who said what.
- Don't be fooled by awards. Just because a book won an award doesn't guarantee that it will make a good read-aloud. In most cases, a book award is given for the quality of the writing, not for its read-aloud qualities.
- Don't start reading if you are not going to have enough time to do it justice. Having to stop after one or two pages only serves to frustrate, rather than stimulate, the child's interest in reading.
- Don't get too comfortable while reading. A reclining or slouching position is most apt to bring on drowsiness. A reclining position sends an immediate message to the heart: slow down. With less blood being pumped, less oxygen reaches the brain--thus drowsiness.
- Don't be unnerved by questions during the reading, particularly from very young children in your own family. If the question is obviously not for the purpose of distracting or postponing bedtime, answer the question patiently. There is no time limit for reading a book but there is a time limit on a child's inquisitiveness. Foster that curiosity with patient answers--then resume your reading. Classroom questions, however, need to be held until the end. With 20 children all deciding to ask questions to impress the teacher, you might never reach the end of the book.
- Don't impose interpretations of a story upon your audience. A story can be just plain enjoyable, no reason necessary. The highest literacy gains occur with children who have access to discussions following a story.
- Don't confuse quantity with quality. Reading to your child for ten minutes, given your full attention and enthusiasm, may very well last longer in the child's mind than two hours of solitary television viewing.
- Don't use the book as a threat--"If you don't pick up your room, no story tonight!" As soon as your child or class sees that you've turned the book into a weapon, they'll change their attitude about books from positive to negative.
- Don't try to compete with television. If you say, "Which do you want, a story or TV?" they will usually choose the latter. That is like saying to a nine-year-old, "Which do you want, vegetables or a donut?" Since you are the adult, you choose. "The television goes off at eight-thirty in this house. If you want a story before bed, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too. But no television after eight-thirty." But don't let books appear to be responsible for depriving the children of viewing time.
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