The Read-Aloud Handbook

Cover of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Penguin Books

Summary: The Seventh Edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook

I am delighted that The Read-Aloud Handbook is now in its seventh edition. "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success is reading aloud to children." That quotation is from Becoming a Nation of Readers, a national report by the Commission on Reading. However, even knowing its importance, many parents, grandparents, teachers, principals, and other educators need guidance as to the "why," "how," and "what" of reading aloud to a child.

Fortunately, that information is available in Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook. Readers will learn what researchers have learned about the impact of reading aloud to children, how to read aloud to a child, and recommended books and stories to share when reading aloud.  In addition, Trelease discusses e-books and their place in reading.

The Author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease

Jim Trelease is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, with twenty years' experience as a highly respected artist and writer for the Springfield Daily News in Massachusetts. He is also a parent who regularly read aloud to his own children. In the course of visiting classrooms to discuss his work as an artist and writer, Trelease became interested in how children learn to read and the effects of reading aloud to children on a daily basis.

Trelease became so committed to both learning more and sharing what he discovered that he developed his handbook and began working full-time with parents, teachers, and professional groups.

The first edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook was self-published by the author in 1979. It was expanded and published by Penguin in 1982. Since then, Penguin has published six revised editions,

The First Section

As Jim Trelease points out, "This is not a book about teaching a child how to read; it's about teaching a child to want to read." The Read-Aloud Handbook is divided into two parts.

The first 10 chapters provide an overview of the subject. Trelease provides specific information on the effects of reading aloud, including the latest research on both reading aloud and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), which he calls "Reading Aloud's Natural Partner." Trelease also provides a lot of anecdotal evidence about the impact of reading aloud to children.

Trelease discusses the "Stages of Read-Aloud" and devotes an entire chapter to the "Do's and Don'ts of Read-Aloud." Librarians and teachers will find his analysis of the lessons to learned from Oprah's Book Club, Harry Potter, and the Internet, as well as his discussions on making libraries and classrooms (and reading) more appealing to students, of particular interest. Trelease also covers the effects of television, audio and technology, both positive and negative.

In his chapter "Digital Learning: Good News and Bad," Trelease discusses the advantages and liabilities of using e-books and online learning. Although he does provide both good news and bad news, Trelease makes it clear that not enough research has yet been done to convince him of the benefits of e-books versus traditional books.

The Treasury of Read-Alouds

The second half of the book contains an updated Treasury of Read-Alouds.

While some of the books were published as recently as 2011 and 2012, there are also a large number of old favorites. Jim Trelease prefaces this section with several pages on how to use the Treasury. Since these are books for adults to read aloud to children, Trelease provides the "listening level" for each book rather than the reading level. For example, a book listed as "Grades K-3" is a book children in grades K-3 should be able to understand and enjoy having read to them. There are nine categories, and I have added a link to a book review or two for several of the categories:

Trelease also provides extensive resource notes for each chapter, a bibliography of resources used, a subject index for the text, and an author-illustrator index for the Treasury of Read-Alouds.

Click on the titles to read reviews of some of the books Jim Trelease recommends;

The Read-Aloud Handbook: My Recommendation

I consider The Read-Aloud Handbook to be an essential reference book for anyone interested in children, children's literature, and reading. There is so much to learn from the book that I couldn't even begin to outline it all. However, on the next page, I have listed ten significant lessons I learned from the book. (Penguin, seventh edition, 2013. ISBN: 9780143121602)

These are just a few of the lessons I learned from Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook. This is an exciting book in that it provides simple tools for helping your children, at home and in the classroom, to learn to enjoy reading and to become lifelong readers. It will also help you to better evaluate the reading environment in your child's classroom, library, and home.

  1. There are reliable studies that confirm the importance of reading aloud and of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading).
  1. As little as fifteen minutes a day in reading aloud to your children can have a significant effect on their becoming lifelong readers.
  2. When you read aloud to your children, they gain both "background knowledge" and a richer vocabulary.
  3. Your child's listening level is not the same as his/her reading level.
  4. It's important to read aloud to your children individually, as their interests and maturity levels may vary.
  5. You children will benefit from your reading aloud to them from the time they are babies up into their teens.
  6. To help your children become readers, supply books, a book basket in the location where it is most likely to be used, and a bed lamp.
  7. Far more boys than girls end up in remedial reading; fathers pay a key role in encouraging reading through reading for pleasure themselves and reading aloud to their children.
  8. Studies show children benefit from recreational "lite" reading of series and comic books.
  1. Libraries can learn from the mega-bookstores and Oprah how to "sell" books and reading to students.