The Read Aloud Life

Read all the books. It's more fun than Laundry.

So.  When I am not thinking about teaching, I am usually trying to remember when the last time was that I folded a load of laundry on the same day that it was washed.  And in between all of that thinking and wondering, I am trying to keep my two (precious, brilliant, infuriating) children alive.  That’s right.  I’m a mom.  I’m currently a sub-species of mom: Stay-at-home-asaurus.  Rawr.

So what does happen when English teachers reproduce? Well, aside from all of the corny punning and philosophical musing, there is a crap-ton of reading books.  In the beginning it’s parenting books.  (Reminder: blog about this sometime!) When you get sick of reading about everyone else’s perfect children and how they never get ear infections because they are gentle sleepers who survive on wheat grass and never consume processed sugar, you drop the parenting books and discover the joy and wonder of read alouds.

Now, I am not only an English teacher, but I am the daughter of an English teacher.  Woah, man.  Intense.  My parents took the task of reading to us seriously, so it makes sense that I would pass on that value/experience to my own children.  BUT, even though I had a library-themed baby shower, and I owned about fifty hundred kid-books, I wasn’t sure what to DO with them all, and when I should start reading them.  Enter our amazing public library.  They have a “toddler time” each week for parents and babies to come and read books, sing songs, and generally cut up.  The amazing thing about this program is that it was also designed to give parents the skills they needed to build early literacy skills in their children.  It was based on this awesome program, and I learned SO much!

There is certainly a lot involved in doing great read alouds for kids, but in this post I want to cover a few basics and one fun bonus tip!

  1. Choose books that are highly engaging and that have literary merit. Have toddlers? You can pull from the Caldecott Medal Winner list! Have older kids? Pull from the Newbery Medal Winner list! If you want more guidance than that, make friends with your local children’s librarian and ask for suggestions, or take a night out and go to Barnes & Noble to browse the shelves.  You want books that use rich language, tell unique stories, and help your kids discover the worlds around and within them. (Just say no to all the Disney Princess and Sesame Street books. Just. Say. No.)
  2. Practice! If reading aloud doesn’t come naturally to you, you may just need to spend some time talking to yourself! If you need examples of how great stories can sound when they are read aloud, I love this resource put together by the Screen Actor’s Guild. Get comfortable with the language in the book, and try out a few funny voices and sound effects while you are at it.
  3. Don’t just read the story!  During your read aloud time, try to verbalize the ideas and questions that are running through your head as you read.  You could:
    • Ask a clarifying question.
    • Ask which picture they like best.
    • Explain a new vocabulary word.
    • Make a connection to something else you have read/seen/experienced.
    • Make or ask for predictions.
    • Ask, “What does this remind you of?” or “Have you ever felt that way?”

BONUS TIP: Try to find books that are interactive.  These are books that ask the kids to DO something silly as a part of the reading time.  My husband really loves books like this because, well… he’s a tax accountant not an English teacher!  They take a lot of the guess work and planning out of the experience, and really they read like a script for a fun bonding time!  I’m linking a few of our favorite interactive titles below.

I say OOH, You say AAK (Usborne) – $12.99
(This is my personal UBAM link, but you should buy from your own book lady if you know one!) This is probably the silliest book we own!  The kids have to memorize a series of reactions based on what is written in the story.  Underpants figure in there at the end.  Super fun and funny!


Press Here, Herve Tullet – $12.60 at last check! (#amazonpricingsocrazy)

This is a FAVORITE along with “Mix it Up” by the same author.  “Press Here” has kids pressing on dots of paint and clapping their hands.  Skills emphasized are counting, colors, sequencing, and predicting.  It’s a real winner!

The Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak  14.86 at last Amazon check!
We don’t own this one, but when Ms. Alei read it at story time the moms laughed as hard as the kids.  B.J. Novak is most famous for his work on and off the set of The Office on NBC.  His sense of humor shines here.  It’s a hilariously interactive book that (you guessed it!) has no pictures.  Nada.


Talk Back!  What are your favorite read aloud books or tips??

The Lively what?!?

Read all the books. It's more fun than Laundry. (1)

Lively. That’s one of the nicer words my teachers, colleagues, students, and friends have used to describe me.

I’m going to spend my time on this blog writing about teaching, and children, and books, so I thought it might be useful for you to get a sense for who I am, what I am passionate about, and what perspective I am coming from.  Lively is synonymous with boisterous, loud, rowdy, festive, and abundant.  Yep.  That’s me.  And when I am standing in front of a room full of teenagers teaching my heart out, this liveliness behooves me.  I’m electric.  My calling is in perfect harmony with my occupation, and the room is singing.  There is a quiet energy filling the space- a song that we are all bobbing along to, even if the words appear unfamiliar at first.  It’s both frenetic and harmonious. Terrifying and thrilling. It’s really, really fun!

This liveliness is, I have been told, less appealing when I am in faculty meetings or community Bible studies. What makes me dynamic in my own little kingdom…err… classroom is often off-putting in other situations. (other people like to talk? or maybe want to listen to someone besides me talk? what???) My colleagues tell me I am like a glass of fine wine, or a hunk of stinky cheese.  It takes a while to warm up to me, but an appreciation usually follows.  What can I say?  I am familiar with my foibles, and I am working on them!  (My latest prayer: Talk less, listen more!)

I have a deep passion for books, for writing, and for people.  I love to research and learn.  I love to have spirited discussions about the merits of a particular educational philosophy or method.  I like to disagree, to be proven wrong, and to vindicate myself.  It’s not my fault, really.  It’s the way God made me, and with a father who is a PhD in Rhetoric, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.  We have big thoughts and big mouths. Shrug.

What does this mean for you, dear reader?  It means that I respect you as an audience, and that I want to be in dialogue with you.  If I say something outrageous, (I promise you.  This will happen.) I want you to let me know.  Perhaps we can agree to refrain from name calling and other obvious logical fallacies, but I absolutely want to dialogue with you! Comment and email away!

(Also, how much do you LOVE that Mel Brooks quotation? Young Frankenstein is a fave at our house!  Do you have a fave Mel?)