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Real-Life Read Alouds

Updated on September 8, 2013

The benefits of a regular read-aloud time to children are well-known. Along with building vocabulary, strengthening listening and comprehension skills, it's a powerful bonding experience for both parent and child.

Whenever you set up a reading session, you'll want to vary the selections, making sure to include some non-fiction items. Non-fiction not only consists of informational texts, but other formats such as biographies, poetry, and even children's magazines.

In fact, children's conversations are constantly peppered with "Why?", "Where does it come from?", and other curiosity queries. They want to take in everything that's in and about their world.

A good opportuity to answer questions like these is to incorporate informational and other non-ficton into the read-aloud.

Why non-fiction?

Non-fiction/informational books are very important as they give children an understanding of the world, an how things work. Well-written items in this genre ignites interest, holds attention, and inspires creativity. As a matter of fact, this category may hook many a reluctant reader as they hear the spoken word. While they sometimes don't handle reading independently, they can certainly make progress from listening.

Sties have sown hat what adults read mostly at work and at home is factual, whether it's newspapers, magazines, manuals, recipes, etc. Likewise, a similar share of materials holds true for the juvenile sector. In an info-driven world, it's essential o be prepared to deal with the daily onslaught on facts and other data. Plus, about 96% of text found on the Internet is informational.

As a result, providing a balance between fiction and non-fiction texts gives children exposure to both literary formats. It encourages research and inquiry, improving comprehension skills for content reading. Not only does this include informational items, but biographies, poetry, and even children's magazines as well.

Time For Discovery

Fortunately, not all juvenile informational books are boring or ho-hum. There's an explosion of quality, appealing works available currently from publishers covering an array of subject areas. In making choices, be sure to:

  • Focus on topics that interest your child;
  • Look for interesting text, avoiding complicated or heavily treated content;
  • Consider materials with chunks of info or shorter chapters
  • Make note is the words would still make sense without the visuals;
  • Above all, check for accuracy. Outdated info does more harm than good

Where to Start Looking

  • Local public library -find out from the children's department which authors are noteworthy for young readers, among them Gail Gibbons, Jim Arnosky, et. al.
  • Recommendations -- poll your children's teachers, family members and friends for their picks
  • Bookstores -- visit both new and used sites
  • Mainstream publishers -- companies such as Random House, Harper Collins, Macmillan, and others maintain informative websites with book reviews and news that can point you to potential items of interest
  • Classroom studies -- what you child is learning in school can be a stimulus in finding related non-fiction for a home read-aloud
  • Online resources -- A plethora of sources include, the American Library Association, Jim Trelease on reading, the Children's Book Council, and a growing host of blogs and author sites


Getting Started

When you start a read-aloud session based around information, it's a lot more than reading a book from front to back in one sitting.

Preparationis key. Before, reading, preview the text so you can tailor your voice, and get familiar with words or phrases you're accustomed with. Besides, varying the voice is what brings text to life, and helps to trigger the imagination.

With your child, skim through, looking at pictures, and other features to strengthen prediction skills. Ask if they knew anything before about the topic, and what they'd like to find out. Learn how the illustrations helped with their understanding.

Embrace flexibility--you can share chunks or chapters over a span of time. Often, you can skip all over, or start in the middle, and not lose continuity. If there's an index, use it to find a topi that interests them, and read that section aloud.

The Interactive Read-Aloud

During your reading, make it interactive--this is where your child earnestly listens and responds to being read to by answering questions, thinking critically, and making connections. Stop periodically to get their feedback.

Use "Think Alouds,"which are open-ended triggers coming from you to highlight or make connections between the text and the child. Ask what they liked or disliked about the selection. For instance, say: "This section is like...", or "I think this means....", or "The pictures help us....". Find out if they have any questions, too.

Pairing Up

An innovative way of making a link between fiction ad informational reads is the use of text sets.

What is that?

Basically, it's a combination of a non-fiction book and a fiction book on a similar topic or theme to enhance learning. Doing this gives an opportunity to learn about the text features pf non-fiction, and compare how they are alike or different.

The good thing is, you don't have to limit a text set to just books. The information could also come from brochures, magazines, or web sites, presenting a varied range of resources .on a chosen subject, so that they can see how knowledge is offered in numerous ways.

One way to implement this practice is to read the fiction selection one day, followed by the informational selection the next day. You might want to alternate genres, or read aloud one genre followed by the other. There's no one "right" way to do this.

After reading, it might be good to help your child create a list of what fiction writers do--create stories, draw pictures, etc., and what non-fiction writers do--conduct lots of research, use charts, present factual data, etc. Reading both types of books shows a child how fiction primarily entertains, and non-fiction essentially explains.

Sampling of Childen's Non-FictionAuthors (USA)

While the area of authors specializing in youth non-fiction is replete with accomplished authors, here is a very brief listing:
David Adler-- Biographies
Joanna Cole-- Science
Jean Fritz --US history and legends
Gail Gibbons-- Folklore, zoology, geography, and history
William Loren Katz --African American and Native American hitory
Kathleen Krull --Biographies
Julius Lester-- African-American history
Jim Murphy-- US history
Seymour Simon --Science

Not limited to just the younger ones, older children also benefit by building on needed. complex study and research habits.

It all boils down to when you put informational books into the read-aloud mix, it can be a rewarding and engaging experience for both you and your child.

The Best Read Aloud Format

Which genre is more important in reading aloud to your child?

See results


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      EA Barnes 7 years ago

      Thanks for great tips on making time for read alouds more creative, memorable and precious. Very inspiring.