Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming
Growing Bookworms Newsletter: October 16

Actions I'm Taking After Reading the New Read-Aloud Handbook

I've included some general responses to my recent reading of the 7th edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook in a separate post. Here, I'm sharing the bits that motivated me to want to take a specific action, and/or change something that I'm doing, in terms of my daughter's reading experience.

Mind you, I'm already reading to my daughter (now 3 1/2) regularly. She visits the library, and chooses her own books. We have books in the car, and we take books with us when we go on trips. We read mostly picture books, but are dabbling in early readers, and even dipping our toes into chapter books. I've read at least two earlier editions of The Read-Aloud Handbook, as well as various other titles on this subject, and I'm confident that we're doing a reasonable job already. 

Still, I found some useful take home messages, places where I think we can do a little bit better. Like these:

Perform Repeat Reads of the Same Book

"Research shows that even when children reach primary grades, repeated picture book reading of the same book (at least three times) increases vocabulary acquisition by 15 to 40 percent, and the learning is relatively permanent." (Page 10, Chapter 1)

The immediate take-home message for me on this is to make sure that we do read new picture books at least three times (unless we dislike them, of course). This isn't much of a problem with books that we own, but sometimes the big stack of library books goes back with books that were only read once or twice. I guess mostly this is a reminder of being patient about re-reads. 

Fill More Book Baskets

Another thing that Trelease advocates is the placement of book baskets in strategic locations throughout the house. I did this when my daughter was younger, but I haven't updated the baskets and locations recently. I need to stock a basket for the bathroom, and figure out a way to keep books closer to the kitchen table. This is going to tie in with another project that we're just starting - putting aside some of the board books (sob!), which currently fill the baskets. 

Get A Bedside Lamp

A related idea, Trelease also suggests buying your child a bed lamp, and letting them stay up 15 minutes later if they are reading in bed. We're not quite ready for this idea in my house yet (we tend to read to her until she falls asleep), but a bed lamp is clearly something that we're going to need soon.  

Read More Poetry

Trelease also talks about the need to read aloud stories that rhyme (Chapter Two). I haven't been as good about reading my daughter poetry as I would like. She's now starting to play with rhyming herself (and has just discovered tongue-twisters), and I think it's time for us to add more poetry to our repertoire. 

Always Say the Title and Name of the Author

In Chapter 4: The Dos and Don'ts of Read-Aloud, Trelease says:

"Before you begin to read, always say the name of the book, the author, and the illustrator--no matter how many times you have read the book." (Page 74)

I used to be very good about this, and had been letting it go a bit lately. This reminder has already gotten me back on track with attribution. I also like to say where the book came from, if it was a gift. 

Read More Slowly

Another reminder from Chapter 4, always good to hear again:

"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." (Page 75)

I think it's always tempting for adults to read quickly, and get through more books. There's a feeling of accomplishment if we read five books tonight before bed. But reading them better, more slowly, with more expression and discussion, is clearly better in the long run. I'm going to work on this.

Chart Reading Progress

My daughter loves to look at her growth chart, and see how much she's grown. Trelease advocates creating a home or school wall chart so that kids can see how much they've read. He says that:

"images of caterpillars, snakes, worms, and trains work well for this purpose, with each section representing a book. Similarly, post a world or U.S. wall map, on which small stickers can be attached to locations where your books have been set." (Page 76)

I especially like the map idea, because we LOVE maps in my house. I'll have to think about the best way to do this. US map? World map? Both? 

Initiate Home Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Time

Trelease suggests setting aside time each day for the child to read by herself (even if she is just flipping through books that she can't yet read). He adds: "All your read-aloud motivation goes for naught if time is not available to put that motivation into practice." (Page 77)

We've done this informally, especially in the car. But I like the idea of having a designated quiet self-reading time. I'm happy to also use the time to model reading, by reading my own book. I'll have to think about how this could be integrated into our schedule. 

Spend Less Time Pecking Away on My Phone

I don't have one quote for this, but a number of references in The Read-Aloud Handbook have affirmed something that I've been concerned about for a while. I spend too much time looking at things on my phone, in my daughter's presence. I'd rather either be present with her, or have her see me reading books (or newspapers or magazines). If I am going to read electronically, I prefer to do it on the Kindle Paperwhite, which is only for reading books. I always call this my "Kindle Book", to reinforce the idea that when she sees me with it, I am reading.  

Continue Limiting TV Time, and Turn On the Closed Captioning

Trelease has a whole chapter on the impact of television and audio on kids and reading. I've been determined since before she was born that my daughter will not have a television set in her bedroom (and I won't have one in mine, either). We currently only allow her to watch television on weekends (though she does sneak in a bit of extra time on the iPad during the week sometimes). But she's like an addict, constantly asking if it's the weekend, and then binging on movies when it is. 

I'm particularly struck by the results of a study that found looked at children's schooling level by age twenty-six vs. the amount of television watched in childhood. "Children who viewed less than one hour a day were the most likely to achieve a college degree." (Page 147) Another study suggested "no detrimental effects on learning (and some positive effects) from TV viewing up to ten hours per week; however, after that, the scores begin to decline. The average student today watches three times the recommended dosage." (Page 148)

I'm not going to make any changes right now, besides turning on the closed captioning (something that Trelease has recommended for years, so that kids SEE the words). But I'm going to keep an eye on how many hours of TV watching creep in over the weekends. Just as soon as the baseball playoffs are over, anyway. 

Limit iPad Time When Traveling

We don't have a portable DVD player, or a DVD player in the car, and I don't see much need for one. But we have downloaded a few select movies onto the iPad. We've found this useful for long car trips, or other times when we need a break. (Most recently, when we brought our daughter along on a wine tasting trip to Napa.) I'm not prepared to give this up - it's been awfully handy on long flights. But I do take this point by Trelease into account:

"The recent addition of the DVD player to family transportation does nothing but deprive the child of yet another classroom: conversation with parents or the shared intellectual experience of listening to an audiobook communally." (Page 154)

I don't think that  my daughter is quite ready to follow along with an audiobook, but I do plan to use them for car trips when I think that she's ready. In the meantime, I'm going to work on talking more, and resorting to the iPad less, especially in the car (though I won't give it up entirely). 


A pretty fine list of actions to take, considering that this is at least the third edition I've read of The Read-Aloud Handbook (out of 7 published editions). Trelease has said that this will be the last edition that he writes, which makes me sad. But I'm very happy to have this one. 

How about you all? Have you read The Read-Aloud Handbook? Has it affected your efforts to grow bookworms in your own household? I'd love it if you would share. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate.