This is an excerpt from Chapter Four of The
Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
7th edition). Non-profit groups may reprint this chapter in its entirety
long as it is not sold and due credit is given to the source (see first sentence
of this paragraph)
and noted that such use is with permission of the author.
The DO ’s & DON’Ts of Read-Aloud
- Don’t read stories that
enjoy yourself. Your dislike will show in the reading,
and that defeats your purpose.
- Don’t continue reading a book
once it is obvious that it was a poor choice. Admit
the mistake and choose another. Make sure, however,
given the book a fair chance to get rolling; some,
like Tuck Everlasting, start slower than others.
(You can avoid the problem by prereading at least part
of the book yourself.)
Don't tie everything you read to
the curriculum. Would you want everything you did all
day tied to a sermon?
you are a teacher, don’t feel you have to tie every
book to class work. Don’t
confine the broad spectrum of literature to the narrow
limits of the curriculum.
- Don’t overwhelm your listener.
Consider the intellectual, social, and emotional level
of your audience in making a read-aloud selection.
Never read above a child’s
- Don’t select a book that
many of the children already have heard or seen on
television. Once a novel’s plot is known, much of their
interest is lost. You can, however, read a book and
view the video afterward. That’s
a good way for children to see how much more can be
portrayed in print than on film.
choosing novels for reading aloud, avoid books that
are heavy with dialogue; they are difficult reading
aloud and listening. All those indented paragraphs
and quotations make for easy silent reading. The
reader sees the quotations marks and knows it is
a new voice, a different person speaking—but the
listener doesn’t. And if the writer fails to include
a notation at the end of the dialogue, like “said
Mrs. Murphy,” the
audience has no idea who said what.
- Don’t be fooled by awards.
Just because a book won an award doesn’t
guarantee that it will make a good read-aloud. In most
cases, a book award is given for the quality of the
writing, not for its read-aloud qualities.
- Don’t start reading if you
are not going to have enough time to do it justice.
Having to stop after one or two pages only serves to
frustrate, rather than stimulate, the child’s
interest in reading.
be overimpressed by book awards. Most of the great
won a Newbery or Caldecott medal.
- Don’t get too comfortable while reading. A
reclining or slouching position is most apt to bring
on drowsiness. A reclining position sends an immediate
message to the heart: slow down. With less blood being
pumped, less oxygen reaches the brain—thus
- Don’t be unnerved by questions
during the reading, particularly from very young children
in your own family. If the question is obviously not
for the purpose of distracting or postponing bedtime,
answer the question patiently. There is no time limit
for reading a book, but there is a time limit on a
child’s inquisitiveness. Foster that curiosity with
resume your reading. Classroom questions, however,
need to be held until the end. With twenty children
all deciding to ask questions to impress the teacher,
you might never reach the end of the book.
impose interpretations of a story upon your audience.
A story can be just plain enjoyable, no reason necessary,
and still give you plenty to talk about. The highest
literacy gains occur with children who have access
to discussions following a story.
- Don’t confuse quantity with
quality. Reading to your child for ten minutes, with
your full attention and enthusiasm, may very well last
longer in the child’s
mind than two hours of solitary television viewing.
- Don’t use the book as a threat—“If
you don’t pick up your room, no story tonight!” As
soon as your child or class sees that you’ve turned
the book into a weapon, they’ll
change their attitude about books from positive to
- Don’t try to compete with
television. If you say, “Which do you want, a story
or TV?” they will usually choose the latter. That is
like saying to a nine-year-old, “Which do you want,
vegetables or a donut?” Since you are the adult, you
choose. “The television goes off at eight-thirty in
this house. If you want a story before bed, that’s
fine. If not, that’s fine, too. But no television after
eight-thirty.” But don’t
let books appear to be responsible for depriving the
children of viewing time.
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