The do’s and don’ts of reading aloud to young children

The book “The Read-Aloud Handbook” is a great book to add to your teacher resource library!

Today in our ongoing book study of “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease, I have the pleasure of sharing chapter 4 with you which is titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Read-Alouds”…

Chapter 4 is a list of Do’s and Don’ts that cover a broad range of ages and stages in the read-aloud experience so for the purpose of this post, I have selected a few of the points that I think are the most relevant to those of us reading to young children. Be sure to note that I am only highlighting some of the tips shared in the book today…


  • Begin reading to children as soon as possible. The younger you start them, the easier it is.
  • Choose books for infants and toddlers that include rhymes, songs, and repetition to stimulate language and listening.
  • Read as often as you and the child have time for.
  • Start with pictures books with only a few words on the page then gradually move on to books with more and more text and fewer pictures.
  • Before you begin to read, always say the name of the book and introduce the author and illustrator, no matter how many times you have read the book.
  • The first time you read the book, discuss the illustrations on the cover of the book and ask the child(ren) what they think the book will be about.
  • Occasionally, read above children’s intellectual levels and challenge their minds.
  • Allow your listeners a few minutes to settle down and adjust their minds and bodies to the story.
  • Mood is an important factor in listening. The authoratative, “Now stop that and settle down! Sit up stratight! Pay attention!” doesn’t create a receptive atmosphere.
  • When reading a picture book, make sure the children can easily see the pictures.
  • Remember, reading aloud comes naturally to very few people. To do it successfully and with ease, you must practice.
  • The most common mistake in reading aloud is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read.
  • Slow down enough for the children to see the pictures without feeling hurried. Reading quickly allows no time for the reader to use vocal expression.
  • Preview the book before reading it aloud to your children. This will allow you to know ahead of time if there is any part of the book you want to shorten, eliminate, or elaborate on.

  • Add a third dimension to the book whenever possible. For example, have a bowl of blueberries ready to be eaten during or after the reading of Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal or a harmonica and lemon available before reading McCloskey’s Lentil.
  • Chart your reading experiences by creating a chart for the wall and adding caterpillars, worms, trains, and other pictures to represent each book so the children can see how many books have been read together.
  • Reluctant readers often find it hard to sit still so try giving them a pencil and paper during the read-aloud experience to keep hands busy. You doodle while talking on the telephone don’t you?”

  • Arrange time in the classroom or at home for the child(ren) to read on their own even if it means only turning pages and looking at pictures.
  • When a child wishes to read to you it is better to choose a book that is too easy rather than too hard.
  • Encourage older children to read to younger children.

Enjoying the tips so far? Now let’s take a look at a few of the Don’ts!


  • Don’t read stories you don’t enjoy yourself. Your dislike will show up in your reading and that defeats your purpose.
  • Don’t keep reading a book once it is obvious it was a poor choice. Admit the mistake and choose another. Make sure, however, that you give the book a fair chance to get rolling. There are some books that just start off slow and get better but you can avoid this all together by reading the book yourself before reading it to your children.
  • Don’t feel like you have to tie every book you read to class work.
  • Don’t overwhelm the listener. Make sure the book you read is appropriate for the intellectual, social, and emotional level of the children you are reading to.
  • Don’t get too comfortable while reading. A slouching or reclining position is likely to make you drowsy.
  • Don’t impose your interpretation of a reading onto your children. A story can be just plain enjoyable, no reason necessary, and still give you plenty to talk about.
  • Don’t confuse quantity with quality.
  • Don’t use the book as a threat (to get the child(ren) to do or not to do something). As soon as your child or class see that you have turned the book into a weapon, they will change their attitudes about books from positive to negative.

I hope you are enjoying our study of The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition by Jim Trelease!

Stay tuned for Chapter 5: Silent Sustained Reading; Read Alouds Natural Partner brought to you by Scott Wiley of Brick by Brick – July 22, 2013! 

More from our book study

Join us for more great tips and information on how reading aloud to young children is an important part of developing a promising reader for the rest of his life!  To join us simply visit this post for the entire schedule of posts or check out the linky below!

Available on Amazon

By |2019-01-03T16:30:06+00:00July 19th, 2013|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Emily July 19, 2013 at 6:35 am - Reply

    Hi there, great post, it seems like an excellent book. This will also be of use to new parents, especially those who don’t come from a well-read background, or a family that doesn’t read. Thanks!

  2. Heidi Butkus July 19, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

    This is such a wonderful post! I love the way you describe things- just perfect. Have you thought about teaching at the University level? You would be good at training new teachers, I think.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 19, 2013 at 10:54 am - Reply

      I have thought about it but I actually would need to apply somewhere! LOL! I think it would be great fun to teach college students about early childhood education.

  3. Heidi Butkus July 19, 2013 at 9:52 am - Reply

    One thing that I would add to your list of “do’s” is that I try to start reading a book by telling the children a little about the story and why I like it. Sometimes, I tell them about how I used to read it to my children when they were little and how they loved it, and how they used to sit right next to me and say some of the words along with me once they knew the story, etc. I think it helps get them a little bit excited about the book.
    Re-reading favorite books really helps get children to love reading, too. When children beg me to re-read a favorite book, their enthusiasm is contagious and spills over to the rest of the children. I use different voices for each character in the book, too, to make the story telling more dramatic. In my kindergarten classroom, I sit in a chair that has wheels on it so that I can move around a bit while I tell the story, too. So for example, if the pumpkin pops off the vine and goes flying, me and my chair go “flying” to one side of the room at the same time! The children absolutely LOVE it!
    Story telling is so much fun!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 19, 2013 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Great tips – especially love talking about how books are meaningful to you in your own experiences reading at home. It seemed like at the end of every book we read last year, the children would ask me to read it again! LOL! Sometimes, we would have to come back for the re-reading and other times, we would start again. It depended on how universal the request was! I love the rolling chair – how fun is that?

  4. Bette V July 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Love to read to my class. Your dos and don’ts are exactly what I do. I let the children hold the book and turn the pages of their favorite book.

  5. Becky July 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I especially liked a point made by Trelease’s that you don’t have to tie every book to class work or the letter you are working on that week . I know I have a tendency to do that.” Don’t confine the broad spectrum of literature of the narrow limits of curriculum”. Trelease’ made an excellent point!

    • Sarah July 22, 2013 at 9:17 am - Reply

      Becky, I agree with you that I also have a tendency to make sure the books that I’m reading are connected to the theme. I need to try to stray away from that because sometimes the books that are connected to the theme are really not that enjoyable for the children. I will work on that this school year!

  6. Kristie Walters July 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I loved the Do’s and Don’ts in this chapter! Reading aloud is one of my favorite activities to do in my classroom and I need to make sure I don’t push it aside!

  7. Sheri July 22, 2013 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    Great tips for reading to children. No matter how much we know, like the children we can always benefit from repetition. One thing I do before I read to the children, is get myself in the “reading mode.” When I was a preschooler many, many moons ago, my grandmother kept me. Every afternoon, we would lay down together, and she would either tell me stories (she was a great story teller) or she would read to me and sometimes with me. I still remember those days and it was the most enjoyable time of the day for me. I try to capture that same feeling each time I read to my class. Love this book. I wish I could afford to buy a copy for every parent of the children I teach.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 23, 2013 at 12:18 am - Reply

      Hi Sheri,
      My mother used to tell me stories too. In fact, she continued to tell me stories all the way through high school and they are memories I cherish. The art of storytelling is almost a lost art today 🙂


  8. Jeanneo July 22, 2013 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    Trelease writes that “we are building a happy bridge between the child and books that can be crossed whenever the child is developmentally ready. ” There is a lot to consider within this statement: the work of bridge-building is happy, not arduous, demanding, or dull. Reading and expanding stories through discussion, enrichment, and play is fun. Children feel good with books. Constructing a strong structure takes patience, thoughtfulness and time. And I love his inclusion that children will cross that bride when they are ready. His tips on how to read are tools for how to build that happy bridge.

  9. Kristin VanCuren Koester July 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    I love the idea of charting our reading experiences. I’ve often thought about doing that but never followed through. Does anyone have any examples of how they do that in their room and what that looks like? Thanks!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 26, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

      I don’t have any examples for you but I would like to give this a try in my classroom this year!

  10. Vanessa @Pre-K Pages July 26, 2013 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Great list and tips Deborah! I have a shelf in my classroom where the “favorite” read-alouds live. These are high-quality books that the children and I both love. I make sure to read a few of these each day- like making sure we have balanced meals. Many of these favorites have rich vocabulary and rhyme so the children are not only getting a “serving” of a great book but they are also internalizing the rhythm, rhyme, and syntax (Nellie Edge) of language. A few of our favorites are Baby Danced the Polka and Ain’t Gonna Paint No More. Research shows that children with larger vocabularies and well developed phonological awareness skills are more successful in school.

    Another thing I do is to allow the children to choose the book we will read from the favorites shelf. Since all the books on the shelf are already high-quality it doesn’t really matter which one I read, so allowing them an opportunity to choose empowers them.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 26, 2013 at 9:42 am - Reply

      I love preparing the bookshelf with quality books so that you can relax and let the children choose what they want you to read-aloud and not having to stress that they are going to choose something that might not be such a great choice!

  11. Jennifer July 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    When I first set out to find books for my two children, I quickly discovered that choosing outstanding children’s books is a challenging task. I headed to our local library and asked a few of the librarians for advice. One handed me a somewhat helpful trifold booklet of 25 favorite books; another one suggested some well-known classics (The Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, The Big Red Barn.) It was a start, but few of the books really got me excited, and much of what was suggested just didn’t seem right for my vision of reading.

  12. Lorrie Looper August 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    I loved the tips Jim shares for the do’s and dont’s of reading aloud. They all seem very important so I’m not sure I could say which one’s were more meaningful to me, but I really likes the one s addressing the use of TV versus reading. I plan to use the list of tips to share with parents during a future training and also in a newsletter put out by the agency I work for. Very valuable info…..

  13. Lisha September 10, 2013 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Excellent tips that I hope to use with my 2 year old! Have also shared this on my parenting page at – inviting you and your fans to come join us in our parenting journey too. See you there!! And thank you for your sincere advice in promoting excellence in pre-school education!!

  14. Aboli November 16, 2017 at 10:34 am - Reply

    My 5 year old daughter loves listening to stories and we both enjoy reading time. Your article will certainly help us . Thank you for sharing it.

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