Better Kid Care Project
Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension

Copyright/Access Information


  • Why Read Aloud?
  • Choosing Books to Read Aloud
  • Organizing Your Collection
  • Adding to Your Collection
  • Guidelines for Reading Aloud
  • Extending the Reading Aloud Experience


Reading aloud to the children in your care can be the best time of day. Sharing a good storybook is very rewarding. You can enjoy reading aloud even more if you…

  • understand its benefits for children;
  • increase your knowledge of children's books;
  • use read aloud guidelines;
  • extend the read aloud experience into other activities.


Make time in your daily schedule of activities to read aloud: Reading aloud…

  • develops a positive attitude toward books as a source of pleasure and information;
  • increases vocabulary;
  • expands the child's knowledge base;
  • stimulates imagination;
  • sharpens observation skills;
  • enhances listening skills;
  • promotes self-confidence and self-esteem;
  • offers many new friends since book characters can become quite real;
  • contributes to the child's problem-solving skills;
  • satisfies and heightens curiosity;
  • encourages positive social interaction.

Reading aloud to young children helps them to become successful readers who love books. Help them by READING ALOUD EVERYDAY.


These suggestions will help you choose suitable books.

  • Choose a storybook YOU WILL ENJOY reading aloud. Your enthusiasm (or lack of it) will be contagious. (Note: Always read any book before you share it as a read aloud.)
  • Select stories that have an interesting plot (story line), frequent dialogue, some suspense and/or adventure, suitable emotional content for the age and background of your children.
  • Match the length of the story with the children's attention spans and listening skills. Begin with short selections. Increase story length gradually. Try using two or three short books in place of a longer story.
  • Look for books that support and extend the children's special needs and interests. For example, *Owen*, by Kevin Henkes, deals with a child's need for a security blanket. *Corduroy*, by Don Freeman, is about the importance of finding a friend. *Rainbow Fish*, by Marcus Pfister, demonstrates the rewards of sharing.
  • Read as many children's books as you can. Refer to the book lists for suggestions. When you find an author and/or illustrator you like, look for more of their books. Your list of favorites will grow quickly.
  • Look for books that represent a variety of cultures both in content and illustration. Examples include: *Abuella* (Spanish); *Amazing Grace* (Black American); *First Strawberries* (Native American); *My Best Shoes* (multicultural); and * People* (multicultural). Multicultural titles are marked with a plus (+) in the book list.
  • A book is new if the child has not heard it. Therefore, the book's age (i.e. copyright date) is not necessarily important. The books in the book list have copyright dates ranging from 1902 to 1994. To restate an old song, “Read new books, enjoy the old. One is silver, the other gold.”
  • Expect your children to have favorite books. Honor their requests to read them over and over again. Keep introducing new selections.
  • If the book you've chosen to read aloud is not working, stop the reading with a simple statement such as, “I see this is not the right book for us today.” Move on to another book or activity. We all make mistakes. Better to acknowledge it rather than spoil the read aloud experience.


  • Create a special spot for your children's books. Arrange them neatly and within easy reach. This extra attention to your book area shows the children that you think books are important.
  • Use a basket to hold board books for the youngest children. These small books with stiff cardboard pages are easily lost when stored with larger books. Keep the basket on the floor or low shelf. Infants and toddlers love to empty the basket and sit among their favorite books.
  • Arrange sturdy crates, wooden boxes, commercial or homemade bookshelves, a shallow trunk, or pair(s) of bookends to display books.
  • Make your book area cozy and inviting. Add a colorful rug, pillow(s), and a small rocking chair.
  • Stuffed animals, especially if they are known book characters, are great reading companions. Many are available, such as, the Goodnight Moon Bunny, Curious George, Peter Rabbit, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Paddington, and others.
  • Make one of the children's well loved stuffed animals into a book character. For example, a panda could be Milton in *Milton the Early Riser*. A favorite brown teddy can become Corduroy by adding a pair of green trousers with straps (missing one button of course). Look for the possibilities.
  • Choose a special stuffed animal as a “read aloud mascot.” This mascot will be a constant companion in the book center. Puppets work very well. Sometimes they can help introduce a story. They can make comments and ask questions. The mascot will become a “reading friend” for the children.
  • Establish rules for using the book center and caring for the books. Show by your example how you expect the books to be handled. Tell the children that books are good friends. They need to be treated carefully. A statement, such as, “This book lives on this shelf,” helps the children know that it needs to be returned “home” when they finish using it.
  • Put a sign on your book shelf; “OUR BOOK FRIENDS LIVE HERE!”


These are some ways to make more books available for the children in your care.

  • VISIT YOUR NEAREST PUBLIC LIBRARY ON A REGULAR SCHEDULE. As a child care provider, ask if you can borrow more books at one time. The librarian will welcome your questions and be very helpful in choosing good books.
  • Check the book mobile schedule. It may be very convenient to your home.
  • Encourage children's families to use the library and/or book mobile.
  • Visit bookstores, both new and used, in your community.
  • Look for books when you travel. Children's books are more widely available in more kinds of stores than ever before.
  • Watch for garage sales. Look for children's books in good condition.
  • Get information from the Book Clubs listed below. They have many books at reasonable cost. Share this information with the children's families. As parents buy books for their children through the book club, you are able to get bonus books for your child care collection. Everyone benefits.Scholastic Book Clubs, Inc.
    P.O. Box 3745
    Jefferson City, MO 65102-9838
    Firefly (Pre-school)
    See-Saw (K-1)

    Troll Book Clubs
    2 Lethbridge Plaza
    Mahwah, NJ 07430
    Little Quackers (Pre-school)
    Troll (Grades K-1)

    The Trumpet Club
    P.O. Box 604
    Holmes, PA 19043
    Early Years (Pre-school, K)
    Primary Years (Grades 1-3)


  • Send for mail order catalogs which offer information about children's books. Try the following:Children's Book-of-the-Month Club
    Operated by Book-of-the-Month, Inc.
    Camp Hill, PA 17011-9850
    Customer Service 717-697-6443

    Hearth Song
    156 N. Main Street
    Sebastopol, CA 95472

    Chinaberry Book Service
    2780 Via Orange Way, Suite B
    Spring Valley, CA 91978

    Music for Little People
    P.O. Box 1460
    Redway, CA 95560-1460


  • Become familiar with READING RAINBOW. This half-hour TV program is based on excellent children's books. Encourage the children to watch it. Check your local PBS station for broadcast times. You may request a READING RAINBOW packet, which includes a list of the books used on the program, from READING RAINBOW/GPN, P.O. Box 80669, Lincoln, NE 68501.
  • Look for READING RAINBOW books at your library. They may be shelved together. Ask the children's librarian if the READING RAINBOW books are marked in a special way.
  • Check out STORYTIME, a TV program for children 3 to 7 years old. It creates an early interest in books and encourages parents and care-givers to spend more time reading to children. Check your local PBS station for broadcast times.
  • Make book purchases an important part of your budget. Suggest that parents and friends donate a book in honor of their child's birthday instead of celebrating with cupcakes. Include children's books on your own birthday or holiday wish list.
  • Build your collection one good book at a time.


Use these guidelines when you read aloud to children.

  • Allow time for the children to gather and settle in. Make sure each child is comfortable and ready to pay attention. A gentle reminder such as, “It is time to put on your listening ears,” will help. (Note: avoid taking away reading time as discipline for children who misbehave. Do not associate reading with negative consequences.)
  • Make yourself comfortable. Whatever your seating arrangement, a low chair, the floor, snuggled on the couch, or in a large chair, be sure that each child can see the book.
  • When everyone is ready, introduce the book. Include three things:1) A short sentence or two that relates the book to your children.

    2) The title of the book.

    3) The author and/or illustrator of the book.

    For example: “I know that you like to pet our big black kitty named Mittens. Today our story is about a very special orange kitty in the book called *Annie and the Wild Animals*. Jan Britt is the author who wrote the story. She also illustrated the book with beautiful pictures.

  • Point to the title as you say it, as well as the name(s) of the author and/or illustrator. Use the words ‘Author' and ‘Illustrator.' Explain that the author writes the story and the illustrator draws the pictures. Sometimes the same person does both. Gradually children will begin to ask for their favorites.
  • Move the book around, either as you read or at the end of the page, so that each child can see the illustrations. This is very important because the children are “reading” the pictures as you read the words. In picture storybooks, the illustrations show a lot of the story action. Try not to block the illustrations with your arm as you turn the pages.
  • Read with expression. Change the pitch (high-low), tone (gentle-rough), and volume (soft-loud) of your voice to show different characters or create a mood.
  • Pace your reading to fit the story. Let your voice reflect anticipation. A short pause can create suspense. Do not read too quickly. The children need enough time to look at the pictures and think about what they are hearing.
  • Get involved. Let your facial expressions show the story content by smiling, frowning, showing surprise, angers, etc.
  • Point to characters or objects in the pictures as you read about them. Show motion, as when Peter slides down the hill in *The Snowy Day* by Ezra Jack Keats. Drop blueberries into a small metal pail to echo the sound, “Kuplink, Kuplank, Kuplunk,” in *Blueberries for Sal* by Robert McCloskey. Mimic Max's magic trick of “staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking,” in *Where the Wild Things Are* by Maurice Sendak. Don't take away from the story with too many extra motions. Use only those which seem natural and comfortable for you.
  • Ask the children to take part in any story that has a repetitive phrase. For example, they will enjoy repeating, “Hundreds of cats, Thousands of cats, Millions and billions and trillions of cats,” in *Millions of Cats* by Wanda Gag or, “Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” in Alexander and the *Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day* by Judith Viorst.
  • When you have finished reading, close the book and say, “And that's the story of *Annie and the Wild Animals*. Wait a few moments. This gives the children time to ask questions or make comments. Do not ask, “Did you like the story?” or “Wasn't that a good story?” They will want to please you with a “yes” answer and may not give their true ideas.
  • If a child says they have already heard the story you are about to read, say, “Oh! I'm so glad” or “Isn't that wonderful. You will need to listen very carefully and see if it's exactly the same story you already know.” I'll check with you when we're finished.” Be sure to follow through. The child will probably remind you.
  • Remember: reading aloud does not come naturally to everyone. Doing it successfully comes with practice.


Use books as a source of activities for your daily program. The following suggestions will help you begin.


  • Display the packet of carrot seeds. Compare them with familiar seeds such as beans, corn, and sunflowers. Note size differences. Talk about size words (tiny, little, small, enormous, etc.)
  • Show a fresh carrot including the top if possible. Compare it with the carrot in the story. Ask the question, “What would you do with the little boy's enormous carrot?”
  • Have a carrot tasting party for a snack. Serve carrots in a variety of ways: raw (sticks, sliced, shredded), cooked, mashed, etc. Caution: Young children can easily choke on raw carrots. Do not give raw vegetables to infants. Closely watch young children when they eat raw vegetables.
  • Talk about children's gardening experiences. Compare them with the little boy in *The Carrot Seed*.
  • Plant carrot or other seeds. Watch them grow. Let the children help water the seeds. Mark days until germination on the calendar.


  • Supply green corduroy pants with straps (missing a button of course) so a favorite brown bear can become Corduroy.
  • Hide Corduroy's missing button. Let the finder give it to Corduroy with appropriate fanfare.
  • Talk about what happens when a button is missing. Consider “what if” Corduroy had not lost one of his buttons or “what if” Corduroy had lost both of his buttons.
  • Play the button game. Collect pairs of different colored buttons. Hide one of each pair, and give the other button to the children. They must find their matching button while not telling the hiding places of the ones that don't match their own.
  • Start a button collection. Use it for counting, sorting colors and shapes, etc. Ask the children and their families to add to the collection.
  • Have the children practice their buttoning skills. Give them old clothes with large buttons.
  • Make a texture collection of fabric swatches including corduroy in several colors. Staple swatches to index cards. These can be sorted according to texture, color, design, etc.


  • Make Green play dough.2 tbsp cream of tartar
    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    1 cup flour
    2 tsp green food coloring
    l cup water
    l/2 cup salt

    Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until it forms a ball in the center of the pan. Cool to touch. Knead gently. Great to use when it's warm. Store covered in the refrigerator.

    Have children make their own Crictor with green play dough.

  • Show ways that he was helpful in the story. (Shape numbers and letters at school.)
  • Collect pictures of different kinds of snakes.
  • Read *The Girl Who Wore Snakes*, by Angela Johnson, to the children. Compare her snake with Crictor.


  • Name all of the zoo animals in the story. Encourage children to think of others. Ask what animal they would choose as a pet and tell why.
  • Create your own child care zoo. Make paper animals and/or collect stuffed animals. Ask children to bring stuffed animal to share.
  • Sort animals by size, shape, color, and other characteristics.
  • Make a zoo of imaginary animals. Ask children to name and describe them. Tell whether their animals would make a good pet, and why or why not?
  • Read *Sam Who Never Forgets* by Eve Rice. Compare the animals in the two stories. Talk about the zoo keeper's job. Select a zoo keeper each day. Ask the keeper to tell how the animals are doing. Ask the keeper what he/she would feed the imaginary animals.


  • Make a list of all the “houses for me” mentioned in the story. How many children are familiar with them? Can they name others?
  • Build one or more special houses. Provide the necessary materials including sheets, blankets, a large umbrella, boxes, etc. If possible, have each child build his or her own house. Have the children visit each others houses.
  • Compare the children's houses with those in the illustrations. How are they alike? How are they different?
  • Although these houses will be temporary, try to keep space and materials for “ongoing” house building. Children love to build houses and play in them.
  • Keep looking for and naming houses for things. Make a list. How many can you find that are not mentioned in the book? This book does a great job of extending the idea of housing. Have fun with it.


  • Have all the children try the different ways Milton uses to wake up the sleepers. Can they think of others?
  • Make paper plate stick puppets of Milton and use them during pretend play.
  • Talk about how the children wake up. Are they like Milton?


  • Collect a variety of flower seeds. Compare sizes and shapes.
  • Look at seeds under a magnifying glass.
  • Plant some of the seeds.
  • Talk about the animals that make underground tunnels.
  • Make a list of daytime and nighttime animals.
  • Read *Good Night Owl* by Pat Hutchins.


  • Develop a mural of this story in several stages.Create an ocean background.

    Make a large outline of the Rainbow Fish.

    Add blue, green, and purple scales.

    Add the glittering scales. Use glitter or shiny foil paper. Ask the children's parents if they have scraps of foil paper to share with you. Have each child make one or two small fish.

    Help each child act out the story part. Their small fish asks for a shiny scale, is refused, and swims away to its place on the mural.

    Make the cave and the octopus.

    Again, act out the story part with each child. They ask and receive one shiny scale from the Rainbow Fish.

    Encourage the children to count the number of fish and number of shiny scales. Are there enough?

    Remember: the activity and the children working together are more important than the finished product. Don't worry if your mural doesn't look like the book. You are not trying to reproduce the books illustrations.

  • Play “ocean music,” and have the children pretend to act out the story. Tape scraps of wrapping paper to one child's clothing as scales for the rainbow fish. Choose someone to be the octopus. All others are smaller fish. Let children change parts until all have a chance to be the Rainbow Fish. Encourage the children to talk to each other. You may be surprised!
  • Talk about the idea of sharing. Remind children of the Rainbow Fish when they are having difficulty sharing spaces, toys, crayons, etc.
  • Collect pictures of all kinds of fish. Compare the pictures with the Rainbow Fish.
  • Plan a visit to a local pet shop to look at their aquarium display. Can the children find a real Rainbow Fish?


  • Take a snowy day walk. Do all of the things that Peter does, perhaps in the same order.
  • Ask children to suggest other snow activities that Peter didn't think of.
  • Make a winter picnic part of your walk. Take a snack and a thermos of hot chocolate.
  • Bring several snowballs or cups of snow inside. Place them in several areas of the house: near a heat source, on a counter top, in the refrigerator, freezer, etc. Find out which snowball or cup of snow melts first.
  • Talk about hot and cold. Put a thermometer in a cup of snow and watch what happens. Move it to a cup of warm water. Ask children to tell what they think is happening and why. Don't be too quick to explain.
  • Talk about temperature and the seasons.
  • Ask children to tell about their favorite snow activity.
  • Keep track of snowy days on your calendar. Note other weather conditions as well.

Keep a card file or notebook of ideas that you think of as you choose and use children's books. Even though not used right away, the ideas may be useful at a later time. Be flexible in adapting ideas to the needs, abilities, and interests of your children. Let your activities develop naturally. Don't feel that you must use all of the ideas which are possible for any given book.

Allow enough time for the activity. Some will be very short while others may require several days. Listen to the children's comments and reactions. They will let you know if your time frame is appropriate.

Remember: you don't have to “do something extra” every time you read aloud. Reading aloud is a joyful experience. Happiness can be defined as doing something, and not wishing you were doing something else. When you are reading aloud to the children, you won't wish you were doing something else. Neither will they.

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