When making our weekly trips to the library, I’m not super-selective about what books Preschooler chooses to bring home. I have a couple limitations…there are a few cartoon-based series that just don’t align with the morals and standards I’m trying to teach at home, and these select few books get a “no” and redirection on the rare occasions that she asks. But for the most part, she selects her own books, I select a few, and a few I try to talk her into
Which, of course, means that not every book we bring home is ideal for read-aloud. Since, however, 95% of the reading we do involves me reading to her, those books that don’t make good read-alouds are usually not selected from the library bag more than once or twice.
So what makes a good read-aloud? Here’s what works for us:
- Repetition. Words that have repetitive phrases invite “audience participation.” Preschooler loves stories where she can chime in on familiar choruses. Right now, we’re especially enjoying Karma Wilson’s Bear books.
- Rhyme. There’s something about a story that has sing-song or rhyme that appeals to small children. They are often easier to memorize, allowing non-readers the opportunity to “read” the books themselves. That sense of ownership goes a long way towards instilling a joy of reading in young children.
- Distinct Characters. Books that have individually developed, distinct characters, with different personalities, voices, or even accents make vocally switching between characters much easier. We recently read Boy+Bot. Bot’s voice was written to reflect that of an automoton, and Preschooler enjoyed his robotic “accent” (once she got over, “That not how you say that, Mommy”).
- Connections. Whether it’s text-to-text, text-to-self, or text-to-world connections, read alouds (okay, and books in general) that directly to a child’s background knowledge in some way are more likely to be hits. Which is why we’ve read just about every version of The Wheels on the Bus that we can get our hands on. It’s Preschooler’s (current) favorite song, and she delights in any new version we can find.
- Humor. Don’t we still do this as an adult? I still read laugh-out-loud passages from what I’m reading to my husband. Adding giggles to a read-aloud experience shows children that reading is fun, an attitude we want them to develop early on. Also? It helps when you’re reading the same book for the 100th time in a day. Not that that ever happens.
So now let me have it. What makes a good read aloud for you? Do you have a method, or are your selections more random? What about reading aloud to older children? What makes a good selection?