The Do’s and Don’ts of Reading Aloud

Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way.

~Orville Prescott, A Father Reads to His Children


When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher announced the school is starting a school wide reading program. For every twenty-five books each student read, he or she would receive a coupon for a free pizza.

Totally pumped on my way home, I was beginning to come up with a plan on how I was going to get so many free pizzas. There were no rules for this one. Any 25 books I could get my hands on counted.

No page minimum.

And no page minimum equals tons of free pizza! I’m totally in! I could even get a free pizza tomorrow! (Insert fist pump here.)

As soon as dinner was over, I ran up to my room to get started on my short books. I had them all laid out and ready to go. That’s when I heard the knock on my bedroom door.

It was my Dad. He was carrying a book. It looked like it could have been three Encyclopedia Brittanicas combined. It was so thick! I figured he had his night planned. Good for him!

Then he hit me with it. He had heard about the contest and wanted to help me out. He wanted to read to me. Great dad…I’ll just sit back and keep count of all the books you read to me! Let’s do this!

But with Dad, it’s never that easy. He already had his own plan in mind and it involved the thick yellow and black book in his hands.

Once this man has a plan, he is never one to deviate….I was doomed.

So, for the next forever nights, he and I read A Tale of Two Cities for my “fourth-grade-you-could-get-all- the-free-pizza-you-want-if-you-play-your-cards-right-program.

Have I mentioned the free pizza yet? (Insert loud sigh with face in hands here.)

I promise I am not bitter!

Moving on…we all know research says the best thing a parent can do for their child’s learning development is read to them…no matter the age and with or without the free pizza dangling in front!


Let’s just make sure we find a time each day to read to the kids…even if you think they are too old!

To help you get started, we have come up with a list of five Do’s and five Don’ts for Reading Aloud with the help of Jim Trelease’s book – The Read Aloud Handbook. Fabulous book for parents of all ages!

Let’s Start with the Don’ts:

1.Don’t pick a book you’re not excited about reading. It will show! We want our kids to catch our enthusiasm for reading, right? A book we are not enthused about will totally defeat our purpose!

2.Don’t be afraid to abandon a book. If you get to reading it and it’s not working for you, make it a lesson and abandon it and find one that is a better fit for y’all. (Caution: Some books start off slow, but get really good later on…make sure you’ve read enough to know what kind of book it is.)

3. Don’t pick a book that is way too high intellectually (ahem, Dad!) or emotionally. You don’t want to overwhelm your listener. (Or deny them free pizza….do I seem bitter?)

4. Don’t be fooled by awards. Books win awards for their writing not because they will make a great read-aloud. It’s not a guarantee…so preview it yourself first. Also, a lot of dialogue may make it difficult for reading aloud and for listening.

5. Don’t make reading aloud a choice between two things. Choose a time each day that works for you and your child. If there is a neighborhood football game going on, your son may want to play in it rather than listen to a book. Which, that would be totally normal. Make sure the time you choose, is a time that is not competing with other things.

Now for the Do’s of Reading Aloud:

1.Do read aloud to your child starting on the day you bring them home from the hospital. It’s never too early, but it’s also never too late! Begin today!

2. Do vary length, genre, subject matter, and non-fiction and fiction. I have a child who is hooked on a certain type of book. It keeps him reading, but during our read aloud time, I know he’s getting a variety of genres, characters, and subject matter. An important reason why we keep reading to our independent readers….they may need someone to show them how to mix it up!

3. Do keep in mind the ages of children. You may have to have separate reading times/books if they are more than two years apart. Right now, I have two separate read aloud times for my second grader and kindergartener. It can be tricky to find two different times to read aloud, but the payoff is worth the extra time!

4. Do allow time for good conversation after reading. Make sure not to turn this discussion into a quiz time, though! Keep it authentic and know this is where huge literacy gains happen!

5. Do read at a pace that is easy to listen to and easy for the listeners to gain a mental picture of what’s happening. If you read too fast, it becomes too difficult for your listeners to picture the story.

Hope this gets you jazzed up for your summer read alouds. Make it fun, make it interesting, and make it special. You may even want to have a pizza party after each book! Just kidding! Although, you wouldn’t have to cook that day!

And just to finish my sad story, no, I never even got one free pizza. While my friends were racking in the free pizzas left and right, I was still trudging along with my dad each night in A Tale of Two Cities.

That’s okay…I got to spend time with my dad.

Guess I could say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!”








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