Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Box Thursday: The Read-Aloud Handbook

This week, instead of a children's book, I'm sharing a parenting book that I recently discovered and which I think is extremely helpful to any parent.

Read Aloud 1

As the title suggests, The Read-Aloud Book by Jim Trelease is about reading aloud to children. It reinforces what I believe in - the importance of reading aloud to my kids, and much more. So since I already read aloud to EV and AA, why do I still need to read a parenting book about reading aloud?

While this book is written as a guide to help parents begin the reading aloud process and how to make the home a conducive place for reading aloud, it contains delightful information for parents who are already enjoying the bond that reading aloud with their kids bring. What I like about this book is that it comes along with a lot of supporting research information conducted on children's reading.

The book is categorized into easy to read chapters, so that it is easy to jump to a specific chapter depending on one's familiarity with the reading aloud concept. These include 'Why Read Aloud' and 'When To Begin (and End) Read Aloud'. Though I generally know that reading aloud is beneficial, I do not know of the specific reasons why it is so. And I like this following quotation from the first chapter 'Why Read Aloud' that summarizes exactly why all parents should read aloud to their kids:

As you read to a child, you're pouring into the child's ears (and brains) all the sounds, syllables, endings, and blendings that will make up the words he or she will someday be asked to read and to understand. And through stories you are filling in the background knowledge necessary to understand things that aren't in his neighbourhood - like war or whales or locomotives.

What's useful about this book is that it gives insights into the reading aloud process. For example, it lists out the three important things that happen when one reads aloud to a child, including the bond between the child and the book, the learning journey that both the parent and child embarks on while reading, and the way the child absorbs everything that the parent reads. And thirty minutes is all that's needed for these things to happen.

Besides sharing about the various stages of reading aloud that a child goes through, and discusses whether there is a natural transition from picture book to novel. The Read-Aloud Handbook also gives it's view on fairy tales and their purpose, and it has this to say:

What distinguishes the fairy tale is that it speaks to the very heart and soul of the child. It admits to the child what so many parents and teachers spend hours trying to cover up. The fairy tale confirms what the child has been thinking all along - that it is a cold, cruel world out there and it's waiting to eat him alive. ... It addresses itself to the child's sense of courage and adventure. The tale advises the child: Take your courage in hand and go out to meet the world head on. ... If you have courage and if you persist, you can overcome any obstacle, conquer any foe.

More than just about reading aloud, this book also talks about Sustained Silent Reading, which refers to independent reading by a child for themselves and for pleasure. It emphasizes the importance of parents as models to develop this in children, and suggests some tips to do it.

I'm glad to see that this sixths edition has also been updated with a chapter that investigates whether TV and technology is hurting or helping literacy. The key, it seems, is all about balance, as TV and technology can help in certain cases, but care needs to be exercised to ensure that that doesn't become over-dependence.

The bonus of this book has to be the 115-page treasury of over 1000 suggested books for reading aloud, from picture books to novels. It also gives the recommended reading level and a brief synopsis of the books. Truly a treasury that all parents will find useful and helpful. No wonder The Read Aloud Handbook has been a trustworthy guide since it was first published in 1979.

Disclaimer: My Imagination Kingdom sponsored a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and images are my own.

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