Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rereading and Reviewing The Read-Aloud Handbook - Chapter 3: The Stages of Read-Aloud

I am skipping most of the first section of this chapter in favor of a referral to the excellent quasi-spinoff book Baby Read-Aloud Basics, which covers the 0 to 24 months age in much more depth than Trelease is able to do here. Have I reviewed Baby Read-Aloud Basics here yet? I suppose I haven't and I should, but suffice it to say, both this book and that one explain what various ages are able to comprehend, how much wiggling to expect, and so forth.

My favorite part of the early-stages section of this chapter is a transcript of a parent reading aloud from Blueberries for Sal, with the verbatim text underlined, which allows the reader to see that active readers-aloud are in dialogue with both the text and the child, commenting on pictures, explaining difficult vocabulary and adding and subtracting language as is age-appropriate for the wee bebe.

Ooh! Ooh! So glad I'm re-reading. We're in the "labeling the environment" stage right now and for this Trelease recommends The Everything Book by Denise Fleming and My First Word Book by Jane Yorke. Oh, I must Bing those. (Just kidding!)

Trelease also asserts: "Prior to age two, repeated readings of fewer books is better than a huge collection read infrequently." (YMMV.) And, in a statement that I cling to on all the days when we do family stuff and life stuff instead of book stuff, Trelease writes, "For as long as possible, your read-aloud efforts should be balanced by the outside experiences you bring to the is not enough to simply read to the child...the words in the book are just the beginning."

This is a handy tip for guesstimating reading levels: "The amount of text on a page is a good way to gauge how much the child's attention span is being stretched. When my grandson Tyler was two years old, he regularly read books with just a few sentences on a page, but by three and a half he was listening to books that had three times as much text...The transition from short to longer should be done gradually over many different books." Conversely, as a parent, you can use this tip to eyeball what the "next stage" book for your kid could/should/would be. First you're doing a four words on a page, and then 10 words per page, and then three sentences per page, and then it's 10 sentences per page, and so on. Also, don't be afraid to start chapter books as early as pre-K (or earlier if your kids are magical), and don't be in a big ol' rush to drop picture books. The chapter books extend their attention span, and the picture books keep their imagination stoked. It's a powerful combination.

If and when you buy this book, do NOT miss page 61, which is Trelease's masterpiece. OK, that may be overselling it, but he lists what books he would use if he were to start reading aloud to a primary class or child that had never been read to before. It's a textured and dense model any parent can borrow from and modify. Good, good stuff.

Last but not least, from this chapter: Read aloud to your children when they are trapped, more or less. This is mealtime with babies and toddlers, chore time with older kids, car time, bathroom time, etc. If they will sit and listen without being imprisoned, fantastic, but if they're always on the run, take your moments and be sure to read aloud to them when you've got them cornered.

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