The Read-Aloud Handbook - Jim Trelease

I found this book at the library and mostly got it because the cover advertised a "Giant Treasury of Great Read-Aloud Books," which Robyn and I are always looking for. Originally I had planned to just skip to the list of books at the end—after all, I know all about the benefits and importance of reading aloud and already planned to do it, so what more was there to learn? A lot, as it turns out. Most of it doesn't change my own plans to read aloud to my children, limit television and computer time, etc., but it did make a big impression on me of the importance of encouraging others to read aloud to their kids and the effect of the child's "print environment" on his ability to read.

One thing that didn't really occur to me before I read his book is that a child's listening ability is stronger than his reading ability. It should be obvious, but it's the first time I'd seen the idea in writing. The Cat In the Hat, for instance, is a book that was designed for kids to read to themselves. When adults read books to kids, they should pick books that are somewhat above their reading level, because they'll still be able to understand them, and be exposed to a bigger vocabulary.

I read the 5th edition, published in 2001, but there's a 6th edition now (linked above). Trelease also has a website,, where he posts updates and plenty of information about reading in between editions.

A few things I gleaned from the book that I'm posting here for my own future reference:
First, a few books that balance the traditional "hero rescues the damsel" bias in fairy tales: The Maid of the North and Tatterhood and Other Tales by Ethel Johnston Phelps, Not One Damsel in Distress by Jane Yolen, and The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women by Karin Tchana. And Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14 by Erica Bauermeister and Holly Smith is another resource I want to keep in mind.

Another item for future reference is the "rain-gutter bookshelves" idea, which allows you to easily display lots of books face-out. Someday my kids will have these in their rooms.

This particular edition added a section about Oprah's book club, Harry Potter, and the Internet. There's also a chapter (not entirely new) about television and its effects on reading ability and test scores. Apparently 10 hours a week has been shown to be a "safe" amount (that is, it has no effect) for older kids to watch: watching less than that or none at all has no significant improvement, but watching more than that tends to cause trouble. Also, interestingly, overwatching TV has a greater negative effect on kids with higher IQs, and also has a worse effect on infants and toddlers, who need much more interaction and less stimulation than a TV provides.

Anyway, the book is filled with anecdotes about reading and books, and is pretty inspiring. I would highly recommend this to parents and teachers (at any grade level), and I hope I can put his suggestions into practice.

Fed to jonathan's brain | May 11, 2006 | Comments (0)


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