Now Read This! Tried and True Read-Aloud Strategies for Classic Children’s Books
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It’s no wonder these three books have stood the test of time: they feature lovable characters and interesting stories, and children are likely to ask to hear them again and again. You can pair these books with read-aloud strategies that build on children’s developing language, vocabulary, and literacy skills.
Millions of Cats
by Wanda Gág. 1928. Puffin Books.
In this quirky story, a husband wants to adopt a cat for his wife, but he ends up bringing home millions of them instead! The millions of cats drink up an entire pond in one sip. Later, they eat each other up and disappear. The book’s memorable refrain, Hundreds of cats / Thousands of cats / Millions and billions and trillions of cats, is a fun quote that readers will carry into adulthood.
Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey. 1941. Puffin Books.
A mallard mother and father set out to make a home for their new babies in the Boston Public Garden. But when two boys on bikes almost knock them over, they realize it’s no place for hatchlings. When their hatchlings grow into skilled little ducklings, their parents take them back to explore the garden; but navigating the busy traffic along the way is no simple task. The local police officers jump in to clear the roads for the family of ducks crossing them.
A Chair for My Mother
by Vera B. Williams. 1982. HarperCollins.
Three generations (grandmother, mother, and daughter) work together to recover after a fire burns their possessions. The mother works hard at a diner, the grandmother works hard at home, and the little girl helps her family in any way she can. In spite of their difficult circumstances, there is plenty of love and a sense of belonging in this family, providing the reader with a message of hope and security.
Many teachers use the following strategies during or after read-alouds. They’re popular for a good reason—research shows they build children’s literacy skills.
Teach about print
- Before reading, ask children where on the page you should start.
- As you read, move your finger from left to right under the words.
- While reading, talk about specific letters. For example, point to the letter M and say, “‘Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live.’ Here’s the letter M. Here’s another M. And another M!” You can also connect the letter to the name of a child in the class: “Oh, look—Marissa starts with an M, too!”
- Point out any print incorporated into the pictures, like the words on the shopping bag in A Chair for My Mother.
Support comprehension with interesting conversations
When children are familiar with a story and ready to think more deeply about it—especially during a second or third reading—teachers can spark conversation with open-ended questions.
- A Chair for My Mother: “Everyone in this family works hard. What are ways you and your family members also work hard?,” “Everyone in this family is loving and supportive. How do you and your family love and support each other?”
- Millions of Cats: “The old man and woman really wanted the cats. Why did they want the cats? How did it turn out?,” “Was there a time when you really wanted something and it turned out differently than you expected? What happened?”
Create meaningful reasons for trying new vocabulary
Think about multiple words related to words you come across during read-alouds. Introduce real-life examples and photos that build on those words.
- Make Way for Ducklings: Find a book with photos of different water birds (ducks, geese, swans), name them, and then read about them. Use the words mallard, duck, and duckling in regular conversations throughout other parts of the day: “Where would a duckling like to grow up? Why?,” “Have you ever fed mallards? What did you feed them?” Predict the types of birds you might see outside, and then go outdoors and name the birds you see.
- A Chair for My Mother: The family in this story collects coins to save to buy a chair. Bring in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters to name and examine. Incorporate coins into a learning activity at the math center.
These book descriptions have been adapted from The Reading Chair’s “Forever Favorites” feature, by Isabel Baker and Miriam Baker Schiffer, published in Young Children. You can find more children’s book reviews in The Reading Chair at NAEYC.org/resources/topics/reading-chair.
STANDARDS 2: CURRICULUM; 3: TEACHING
2E: Early Literacy
3F: Making Learning Meaningful for All Children
Vol. 12, No. 1