Monday, July 8, 2013

Read-Aloud Handbook: Why Read Aloud?

Here it is—the beginning of our summer book study for 2013. We're reading The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (7th edition). Wondering about this book study and how to be a part? Check out my intro page or the info on Pre-K Pages to learn more about it.

On to the first chapter. Wait, what about the introduction? I must admit; I skipped the introduction and jumped straight into chapter 1. Then I went back and read it. I'm glad I did. The introduction and first chapter dove-tail nicely in thinking about reasons and values of reading aloud to children. A quote in the introduction contains the author's summary of this book--

"This is not a book about teaching a child how to read; it's about teaching a child to want to read."
If you skipped the introduction, I'd recommend a quick read through it.

Okay, now to chapter 1. This chapter begins with a review of studies on students and reading. Trelease states it well:  "Every child begins school wanting to learn to read. In other words, we've got 100 percent enthusiasm and desire when they start school—the first chapter of their life." But as they grow through school, fewer and fewer students are reading anything for pleasure. Why? They have no affection for reading; either teachers haven't planted a love for reading or that love has been "driven out" by the kinds of activities in the classroom. And if love for reading isn't reflected at home either, well, kids certainly won't develop it.

Trelease notes these values of reading aloud--
  -  Builds vocabulary. Kids from poverty hear less words spoken and come to school with a large vocabulary gap. These kids also have less printed materials in the home (in general). Printed materials contain more "rare words," words that go beyond everyday conversation and make up a large part of educational language. Reading aloud helps all kids gain vocabulary (for speaking, self reading, and writing), but can especially aid kids from lower socio-economic homes. (For research on this, see The Early Catastrophe.)
  - Conditions the child's brain to associate reading with pleasure. What kids (and adults) enjoy, they repeat. What they dislike, they avoid. Reading aloud creates positive associations with reading so kids will develop an affection for reading and continue to do it as they grow.
  - Creates background knowledge. All children bring information with them to learning. Those with more experiences have greater knowledge of the world. Reading helps build knowledge of things beyond their own homes. Kids who have not been to museums, zoos, the beach, or other experiences benefit from someone reading to them, building more background knowledge.
  - Provides a reading role model. Children do what they see adults do. If adults are reading to them, children want to read, too.
  - Plants the desire to read. Children want to do things for themselves. Hearing and seeing others read creates the desire for self-reading.

Some personal reflections--
When I moved to the first grade classroom, one teacher friend told me to read to them, a lot. So I did. Sometimes I wondered if I was overdoing it. Sometimes it seemed like an easy fix to fill time or give information about a topic. But after reading this chapter, I feel I may not have done it enough. And I also learned that repeated reading of the same picture book builds vocabulary and creates more permanent learning. We will be reading aloud a lot this next year. And doing more repeated readings.

I saw the value of modeling in two ways in my classroom last year.
  • At some point, a book that I read to the group finds its way to the classroom library area. Those books were the ones that were chosen repeatedly by kids when the opportunities arose. They wanted to read the books that I had read to them. And I saw them reading those books (and others) to each other.
  • In the school library, the librarian and I were trying to get kids to venture out, away from just rechecking out No, David or Pinkalicious. Nothing wrong with those books but I had readers that were capable of more challenges. I began reading Henry and Mudge. We found all the Henry and Mudge books on the library shelves. And many kids began checking out those books. They wanted to read at home what we had read at school. I will be introducing lots of different books--picture books and beginning chapter books--to inspire reading choices.
Wow. Just wow. Lots of stuff and it's just the first chapter. What insights or reflections did chapter 1 generate for you? Post your ideas in the comments below. Or link up your blog post about this chapter.

Another Q&A post with Jim Trelease will be posted on Prekinders on Wednesday and Chapter 2 will be on Pre-K Pages on Friday.

[[I'll keep adding links to the related posts on this book study page.]]


53 comments:

  1. Great start for us Scott! Thanks for beginning our journey with the wonderful book.

    For me, what hit me hardest in this first chapter was the vocabulary research. I actually had read and discussed this study during one of the classes I took when getting my Master's Degree in Literacy. Reading it again reminded me of just how important vocabulary, and more specifically, parental interaction with children is for the development of a child's brain. Obviously, the first few years of a child's life are 'out of my hands' as a kindergarten teacher. My school is trying to position itself as a 'community center' and our preschool/kindergarten 'team' (two other teachers plus myself) are working to increase our reach into homes. I'm confident in my read aloud capacity (we read five or six books a day, and often repeat favorites) and my new goal is to work on a 'push' for more books and read alouds in the home.

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    1. I agree with you Matt on the vocabulary research. A good reminder to increase our read-alouds to these wonderful young children. The children I work with have limited experiences and with field trip cut backs, so often the only way to bring the experience is through books. Good luck with your home outreach.

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    2. The vocabulary research resonated with me, too. Vocabulary was an emphasis in my school last year and will probably continue to be. We've talked about vocabulary deficit in kids from lower-income homes and our school serves many families in that category. Another reason to read, read, read aloud.

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    3. The home outreach program that you and your school have started sounds like an amazing venture! I would like to hear more about this because the first chapter (& introduction) has inspired me to become more proactive in our parent involvement program. I'm a Reading Interventionist so my interaction with parents differs from that of the classroom teacher but I do have access to all of them. I'm thinking like some kind of newsletter sent home monthly/quarterly to support literacy in the home. We have a Dr. Suess night in March to celebrate Read Across America and I was thinking we could add more for Parent's during this activity as well! I would love to hear what you guys do and how you do it.

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    4. I like how you are pushing into the community. I teach pre K in an urban school district and we use to have home visits and parent workshops. The students would come to school for 4 days and Wednesdays would be the home visits or workshops. Of course people complained and said the pre k teachers were only working 4 days and blah blah, then the home visits and workshops were eliminated from our program :-( Which is sad, because we could really get to know the parents and stress the importance of reading to their child.

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  2. I am excited to be a part of this study. Two ideas have formed since reading chapter 1. I have thought about a "check-out" system for children, to bring books home to encourage parent/child interaction, and this book has given my the push needed to get the program started! Nap time transition from noisy lunch to quiet time is always the most chaotic time and I will begin reading books/poetry to smooth the transition. This will help to calm the little bodies and listening skills will be developing. I enjoyed the research listed in this chapter and the information given to compare our readers to those of other countries. How sad that we are losing so many readers by 8th grade. I love to read and it is always an important part of my classroom of pre-k children. I always love to watch the children who are disinterested in books at the beginning of the year, come to love books. As we discuss books to study as a faculty, I will encourage this as our study for the coming school year.

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    1. From personal experience, (though it hasn't stopped me!) make sure the books sent home are books you don't expect to see back. Quite frequently these books do not return (not that this is a bad thing) so using online auction type sites such as EBAY or check and see if you have a local swap shop, also garage sales are great because people will often take a said amount to get rid of a bundle of books so you can keep a constant stock of books is handy! Also check with family and friends, they will often times have children's books that their children no longer read and they will practically give them to you! Wishing you the best of luck in your newest adventure!

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    2. Let me add to your sources of cheap books your local library book sales. My library sells donated books and shelf rejects frequently, and sometimes as cheaply as $1/bag. These are not pristine: they might have library markings on them -- but you don't have to worry too much about them if they disappear!

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    3. Thanks Tara and Joy. I had thought about the "walking" books, and plan to continue to add to my collection.

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    4. Kristin VanCuren KoesterJuly 9, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Another great place to pick up some cheap books to share...rummage sales, bazaars or whatever they might be called at church festivals. :) We picked up quite a few good quality books to donate to kiddoes visiting a soup kitchen to help increase the # of books/print materials in their homes.

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    5. That's awesome to give books to children at a soup kitchen, Kristin!

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    6. I have a lending library in my classroom and my kids love picking books out to take home. I get a lot of my books from library sales. Best of luck! :-)

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  3. I have taught both regular ed and special ed preschool children in the public school setting for the last 13 years. I am also on the school's leadership team and over the past 4 years, we have been pouring over data and making changes to try and increase our test scores, with minimal results. Strangely enough, reading aloud to our students as well as SSR time has never been discussed as a tool for improvement. I definitely plan on taking the information learned here back to our team.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Amy. I think this new edition of the book is very timely because so many best practices have been thrown out with the bath water so to speak to make room for "the standards". I hope that your team will realize the power and value of read aloud and SSR as tools for improvement. I used SSR with great success in my pre-k classroom for many years. It was amazing to watch my students develop a deep love and appreciation for books and reading each day.

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    2. Kristin VanCuren KoesterJuly 9, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      Vanessa,
      I've always felt like I had a strong literacy foundation in my classroom but reading this book has my brain exploding with more ideas. I'm definitely going to implement SSR in my room this year along with several other ideas I gained from this book. What does SSR look like in your room/schedule? Or do you have that further explained on your webpage?
      Thanks!

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    3. I agree with the invisible value of reading. My son is 21 and home from college. He is more of a gamer and loved art. I began reading more this summer and he has also joined in. It is amazing what influence we have when we simply model reading as well. He has finished at least 2 books in the last week and ordered more online. I have found that our modeling is the visible teacher and the invisible is the unspoken word that our actions achieve. Readers are leaders is a favorite quote in our preschool classroom and now in our somewhat grown up home. I will always be a preschooler at heart.

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    4. I'm going to show my ignorance. . . what is SSR? I teach Pre-k, but don't have a degree and am trying to learn as much as I can. It's probably explained in the book, which I confess I'm still obtaining but haven't yet.

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    5. SSR = sustained silent reading. Someone reading to himself for period of time.

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    6. Kristin, you can read more about what SSR looks like in PK and Kinder on my Classroom Library page here: http://www.pre-kpages.com/classlibrary/ I call it Be Excited About Reading or BEAR time for short :)

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    7. Kristin VanCuren KoesterJuly 15, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      Vanessa,
      Thanks so much!

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  4. Thanks Scott!
    Your post on Chapter One was very insightful and I really appreciate the added article to further back the data! I'm with you on the introduction! I did read it first but it hooked me from the opening quote "The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produced not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together."

    I love Jim's "no nonsense-just the facts" craft. I can't put this book down and it has inspired me to become a proactive parent involvement advocate for public education

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    1. I couldn't put the book down either! And Trelease writes so well that even though he's presenting a lot of information, it is easy to digest. This is a read page-turner!

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    2. Wow Tara, love that this book has inspired you so much, and through that inspiration you can inspire others and help children in the process!

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    3. If you check out my blog you will see that this book came across my computer at a time that I was questioning public education (don't get me wrong I work in it! But I feel like we fail children sometimes! I just couldn't figure out what to do about it).

      I was seeking answers, not only as an educator but as a parent as well. My daughter was diagnosed with developmental delays at age 3. She had an early childhood IEP and received speech and OT. She didn't even talk until she was 4.

      At her annual IEP mtg this year I was appalled to learn that she still did not qualify for language and they are just barely hanging on to her in speech because she's about to meet her artic. goals. As a parent, I want to know what I can do to to help my child be successful! As staff member, I realized we don't support parents like we should!
      This book came at a time that I was beginning to turn to parent involvement as an answer to my frustrations.

      While I realize that the 1st chapter of this book was intended to supply data to back the read aloud theory. The underlying theory of Parent involvement resonated with me like none other! And I have a feeling the rest of the book is going to be just as inspirational!

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  5. I am excited to be involved with this reading group. Thanks, Scott, for hosting the first chapter (and the introduction)!

    I have a confession to make: I have already finished the book! I found it absolutely riveting and couldn't put it down. I will go back and read the chapters more slowly along with all of you, and will no doubt benefit from seeing and reflecting on the information twice.

    I have always understood the affective impact of reading aloud, mostly because my parents (mostly my dad!) read to me as I was growing up. It's wonderful to have a resource which validates reading aloud from an educational perspective. It is certainly something I promote in my preschool classroom. I am very careful to have a large and rotating collection of children's books in the shelf, and we spend at least two periods of time each day reading books individually or in small groups. I also read aloud to my whole class at least once a day.

    Reading this book helps me to understand the importance of the Raising a Reader program, which our site participates in. This involves sending home bags of books every week to each family. I admit that managing this sometimes feels like just an extra set of administrative details; reading Trelease's book helps me to understand just how important it is to ensure that parents are reading to their children at home.

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    1. You are not alone Joy, I also devoured this book in one sitting, I simply couldn't put it down :) I have a very easy solution for sending home books with young children that they can do independently- would you like me to include it in one of my later chapter posts?

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    2. Vanessa, I would like to hear your solution too!

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  6. One thing I forgot to include in the blog post is a link to Jim Trelease's brochures for parents about reading: http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/brochures.html

    When I read Mommy's Lessons blog post (see link-up), I saw that she did and it reminded me. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Scott! The one complaint I have about the resources on Trelease's page is that most are not translated into other languages. We will be having a Parent Night around the launching of Raising a Reader in the fall, and I will suggest providing the brochure that is translated into Spanish with the materials we give to the parents.

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  7. I apologize for skipping back to the "Introduction." However, since reading "Can We Really Change Families and Homes in America?", I've carried that message with me through Chapter One. I'm reflecting on how many times I've been the proverbial cheerleader that squeals how wonderful reading is to my families. How I wish to stop the "sugar coating" and just >be real.< When our districts encourage being family friendly, I'd like to be more family forthright and honest.

    I have a personal library within my classroom that is...HUGE! My students know my favorite books & characters because I go on and on about them. Therefore I see how Scott comments on how his students bring back from the library similar (if not the identical) text. I will definitely be more cognitive in selecting and discussing text that might pull more challenging readers into reading more.

    A wonderful start to a fantastic book. Thank you Scott for getting us started!

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    1. So true 7718cameron, we are not doing our students or families any favors by sugarcoating anything. Reading is important business; the urgency and importance should be made very clear from day 1 to the parents. I love how you put it, "we should be more family forthright and honest"- I couldn't agree more.

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  8. Wish I had read this 26 years ago when I was pregnant! I teach at risk population with the majority being Hispanic & Asian. The statistics about their future without reading aloud horrifies me! I am stepping up my game BIG TIME next year! Glad I made those reading suitcases last year for the kids to take home. I didn't send them home until after Christmas but they are going home in September.

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  9. Kudos Scott for doing such a great job with Chapter 1! I absolutely love the quote from the introduction and believe in it wholeheartedly, before we can teach a child to read we first have to get him to want to read. Motivating children to read is such an important piece of puzzle that is often overlooked. One way I do this is to invite the children to contribute to class books which include their picture or illustrations. Books like our class birthday book, a Yes David book instead of a No David book, a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Welcome to our Classroom introductory book etc. All very powerful tools to engage and motivate young children.

    As always, you ability to self-reflect and make adjustments to your teaching is profound.

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  10. I am so excited about this Book Study. I have been highlighting parts of the book to share with my families - I teach three year olds. I am constantly encouraging families to read with their children and there is a lot of fabulous quotes in Chapter 1 that is backed up by research. My favorites are that reading aloud is the "single most important activity" to build knowledge for eventual success in reading and "The one prekindergarten skill that matters above all others is the child's vocabulary upon entering school".

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  11. Loving what I have read so far, and now I am looking at this information through the eyes of a grandmother as well as a teacher. My granddaughter, at 18 months, has a huge book collection, and I just ordered a copy of this book for her parents.
    I will be moving to third grade after teaching pre-K (UPK) for more than 15 years, and want to bring back read a louds to these older students. I am a little nervous that might choose books that are too simple, I have never taught kids older than five, so I am appreciative of the timing of this book study!

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  12. Kristin VanCuren KoesterJuly 9, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    I have not been able to stop talking about this book since I read it....it actually made me laugh & get a little weepy :) at times. I am so inspired by it & plan to implement several new things in my classroom this year (I teach in an inclusive preschool setting with 3-5 year olds). I love how Jim writes....including facts & research--yet with humor, stories and great analogies. The research regarding vocabulary was just astonishing to me.

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  13. This book just backs up what I have always promoted about reading aloud. I read aloud to my now nearyl 40 year old daughters before I took education classes and am convinced that is the reason they are so intelligent. High achievers in high school, engineers with masters and successful in their careers. Their much younger sister followed their success. All are avid readers for pleasure and additional education. I promote reading aloud in all my parent conferences.

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  14. I wish every parent could read this book. It is right on the money. I can always tell the kids who have been read to when they enter kindergarten. It makes a huge difference.

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  15. Let me begin by saying I am so excited to be part of this! This is my first book study and WOW, what a great one it is! I found Vanessa Levin's blog page by accident through Pinterest, which led me to not only finding out about this book study but also introduced me to two new blogs to follow. This one (Hello Scott!) and Matt at "Look at My Happy Rainbow".

    The Introduction and Chapter 1 went perfectly with a topic I just read over at PreK + K Sharing titled "Family Involvement or Engagement?" The couple in the intro, Susan and Ted Williams, and Leonard Pitts' mother were definitely engaged in their children's learning by simply reading and listening.

    I am really excited to use and share the things I'm reading with my student's parents this coming year. A couple of my favorite points in Chapter 1 were, "...the best source for vocabulary and brain building becomes the ear." (p.5) and "The one prekindergarten skill that matters above all others, because it is the prime predictor of school success or failure, is the child's vocabulary upon entering school." (p.15)
    I'm enjoying reading everyone's comments. Nice to meet you all.

    Paula
    Learn + Play = PreK

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    1. Hi Paula, it's nice to meet you too. I just visited your blog and love your enthusiasm. I too enjoyed the same points you shared and have them highlighted.

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    2. Glad you're reading with us, Paula. Isn't the book inspiring? I've got to figure out ways to connect more with my parents this year - helping them and encouraging them to read with the kids.

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  16. I have really enjoyed reading this book and as a veteran teacher of 20 years, I am wondering why I have never read it before. Reading aloud is one of my favorite activities to do with my preschoolers. I often times find that it gets left out with the demands of a my daily schedule and fitting everything in the 2 1/2 hour time block that I have. I truly understand that if I do nothing else, reading aloud has to be that one thing that happens on a daily basis!!!

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  17. So many great comments here! I can see that many had a similar reaction that I did to the beginning of the book. I'm excited to read on (although I've had other things intrude so I haven't been able to get all through it yet, like some of you!).

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    1. Wow!What a timely book to be doing this summer. I actually was granted money for an ipad for our class. Now, I wish I could use the money for more books!

      One thing that I have implemented (and it's a growing project for sure) for a home/school connection to encourage families to read to their children is called "Family Packets." I found that parents really need help with finding good children's books to read. The library is always an option and sending home book lists are good, but I thought that actually sending home a book would be even more valuable. Therefore, the outset of "Family Packets." Each packet includes a book with an extended activity for the family to do together as well as extended family time activities. For example in the packet for Goodnight Gorilla the extended family activities included large motor fun to do at home (using large muscles to act like a gorilla,etc.) a trip to the zoo and more related books animal topics. I also included animal stencils, paper and markers for the kids to have fun making their own zoo. The kids think they have homework and the families appreciate the direction. I have had excellent feedback and will continue my on-going project. They can be checked out, but I actually put out several in backpacks each class time. It has been worth the work.

      Deb K

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    2. Deb, I love the idea of family packets. I saw it done in a classroom once. The teacher had the packets in individual zip lock bags. They were in a cute basket by the door of her classroom for parents to borrow anytime. She also had packets created for simple cooking projects to do together. I would love to do it in my classroom but run into a roadblock with my school. They discourage parents from walking their children to the classrooms. I understand their concern for school safety but it does make it more challenging to do a parent packet checkout program.

      Paula
      Learn + Play = PreK

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    3. I love the family packet idea, Deb! I might have to try that out when school starts. Thanks!

      Sarah

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    4. Thanks, Sarah. The parents really did appreciate having a good book to read to the children.

      Paula: Could you put one in your kiddos school bag? I actually put a family packet in a child's backpack. I send out about 6 per week. I have a rotation so a family knows when to expect one. Just a thought.

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  18. I'm so glad that I saw that this book study was going on and decided to join it!

    While reading the intro and ch 1, I found myself shaking my head in agreement and laughing. I can say that I've really enjoyed this book so far.

    One thing that really stood out to me was when Jim was talking about the 5th grade teacher that used voices while he was reading to his students. I also use voices when I read to my prekinders. They absolutely love the voices and it captures their attention. This summer, I jumped out of my comfort zone and taught 4th grade. I used those voices while I was reading to them too. I think they liked it and helped them picture the character better.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of the book :0)

    Sarah

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  19. Like many of you, this is my first book study and I am loving it! I was totally engrossed in the introduction and all of the information shared. This fall, I will be implementing a new community-based literacy program and this book has really provided me with valuable information to share with parents about the importance of reading to their young children. This program will be providing books to low-income families in our community, along with modeling read-alouds weekly to the families, so this book is proving to be a very valuable and timely resource for me! I also got a new grandson four days ago and I plan on reading to him every time I see him, in addition to encouraging his mother to read, read, read! We all read to her first son (now 5), but after reading the first chapter, I'm not sure we read enough, so I plan to step it up, as a grandmother and a role model for the parents I will be working with over the next several months. Thanks for this wonderful opportunity!

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  20. Thanks for giving us a great start with chapter 1, Scott. I'm glad you said that the books you read to the class find their way to the classroom library. Sometimes teachers (or other adults) won't let children touch books for fear they will tear the pages or in some way damage them, but I believe it is far more important to put books into the hands of children, particularly the ones we have read to them.

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    1. Sorry for the late input. I love this book. It validates my belief in the benefits of reading to children. I agree with Karen that books written for and read to children come alive when placed in a child's hands.

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