Jim Trelease Quote, Reading and Writing, and a Journey of Teaching

A great quote can pack as much power as a good book.  When both come together in one package, then you have it all.  That’s Jim Trelease.  That’s The Read-Aloud Handbook.

“People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does.  It expands their interest in books, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and attention span.  Simply put, it’s a free “oral vaccine” for literacy.”


Yes, they would!  This author is, and always has always been, a strong advocate for reading aloud.  Fortunately, he is a terrific writer and researcher.  His million-copy bestselling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, is now in it’s seventh edition.  It is packed with research that should make every parent and teacher run to the library.  It is also full of stories that bring reading aloud alive.  I have written two of these stories on my blog; “Reading Aloud Makes a Big Difference.  Here’s Proof” (11/23/2014) and “Reading Aloud; A Source of Making Cuban Cigars” (12/5/2015).  Please read, because you will be a glued as I was.

I love a good story.  Here is the story of how I came to be a reader and a writer.  More importantly, here is a story of making a difference in the education of young children.  It’s not about me, I just happened to be the educator who did all those important things.  Jim Trelease played a big role:

“It happened like this…” 

When my children were little, three things happened;  on our first trip to the library after moving to New England, my daughter saw Jumanji by Chris van Allsburg (fairly new at the time) on the book shelf and exclaimed, “That’s the book my kindergarten teacher read to us!”  That began my love of our library and Gerry, the librarian who always knew just the right book for any child.  Next, I began teaching preschool, and my head teacher handed me Swimmy by Leo Lionni and asked if I would read aloud to the children every day.  Finally, a fellow teacher put a book in my hands, The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

I call this a hat trick, or more accurately a grand slam (because those three home runs led to reading and writing).

Over the next few decades it was obvious to me that reading aloud made the biggest difference in the lives of children.  Not only did they learn and become good students (and readers), they were always drawn to books.  And, I was, too.  The more I read to them, the more I became excited and engaged in the stories.  I began stopping to ask questions.  It became common to have long conversations about new vocabulary words and about the subtleties  of morality, not to mention  all the ‘W’ questions.  Reading had become far more than reading.  It had become the foundation for my teaching, and the link to everything I taught in the classroom.  There was always a book handy to give children both the visual and the auditory tools of learning.  Books cemented my curriculum.

I wrote newsletters to parents.  All the teachers were required to do so, and that is a good thing.  Then, I would include a paragraph about what happened in the classroom, what we read, or how we learned something new.  That’s when I began becoming a writer in earnest.  I wrote about our class pet dying, and why it was important for children to grieve and ask questions. I wrote about lunchtime conversations, geography using satellite maps, and of course about reading aloud.

I started chapter reading at rest time, and wrote even more newsletters to families.  Then I attended a teacher conference, and Jim Trelease was the keynote speaker.  I had (and loved) his book, so I looked forward to hearing him speak.  Well, I was thunderstruck.  His presentation was as good as his book.  Every word was electrifying.  I wanted to stand up and scream at the packed house of teachers and yell, “Are you listening to this man?  He’s telling you the most important things you will ever need to know.  Listen to him!”  They were listening, but not like I was.

When I returned to school, I wrote Jim Trelease a thank you letter and included one of my newsletters about chapter reading.  I wanted him to know that some teachers were doing exactly what he was teaching.  Time went by, and I received an email.  The seventh edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook was in the works, and could he possibly visit my classroom.  He did!  Yes, I’m in the book.  When I turned out the lights at chapter reading so each child could ‘make the pictures in their head’, he smiled.  He understood.



About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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33 Responses to Jim Trelease Quote, Reading and Writing, and a Journey of Teaching

  1. reocochran says:

    Yes, my brothers abd were read to almost every night by my Dad. Everything from AA Milne to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He lived picture books by Dr. Seuss, he enjoyed the animal story books by James Herriot. He lost his own childhood but found it again with us. Our rapt attention brought him warmth and joy. He wasn’t the teacher, my Mom taught basic English, Spanish and World Lit. She was worn out at the end of the day. Dad knew how to switch gears and become less driven. So, when I substituted I carried a bag of books. When I taught sixth grade at age 24, I knew how to focus on a moment when the students needed to refresh, after lunch I read chapter books, for the last half of the year, The Yearling by Ms. Rawlings was all of our favorite part of the day.
    The reasons you gave were important for reading aloud, expanding vocabulary, learning about parts of the world or country outside the students area, understanding sequence, and plotline. I would ask each day, what was their favorite part? What might happen next? They wrote in their journal about the answers and characters. Jennie, you were a great addition to the book by Jim Trelease. Smiles, Robin
    as well as I liked sending newsletters in preschool like you mentioned too.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Robin, that is a wonderful life story. Thank you! You get it, and that plays a part in your terrific character. I can just picture you lugging in a bag of books and chapter reading. I guarantee you some of those children have talked about you along the way and remember the reading. Your dad sounds like the best. Big smiles to you!

  2. As always, a great post…reading aloud has always been a given in my growing up, our kids growing up and even between hubby and I as we sit on the couch and find great snippets of prose/poetry in whatever we’re reading at the time. One of my main duties as a Volunteer Mom during my kids elementary school days was to spend one-one time with students having them read aloud to me…
    FYI: something you might relate to – as a family (with three teen-aged kids), we read ‘the little prince’ aloud on tuesday evenings and because of our active schedules, it took us a couple of years to finish it…HA!!!!

  3. What a wonderful story. To have someone really listen to what you say or read or write and be moved to respond — this is such a gift. And what a gift he gave you in return!

    I love that line about standing in line for a pill. I’ve got this feeling that if people spent more time writing and walking, they’d spend less time waiting in line for pills. 🙂

  4. I work with children, and not as many parents read to them as one would hope. Thank you for sharing Jim Trelease’s quote and work.

    “Simply put, it’s a free “oral vaccine” for literacy.” How very true! ❤

  5. donutsplace says:

    I was a reader. Even in school,I read as many as I could.I read in the classroom and got passes to the school library too.
    I always loved ro read. And I still do.
    I used to read to my daughter all the time. We both enjoyed it.
    She grew up like me, a avid reader too.
    I smile still because she is excellent in spelling also.
    What is sad these days, most kids cannot even fill out a job application.
    My daughter can.
    I am happy she has a interest in this still. She has a natural ability for writing. I wish she would take that up again.
    I have had a poem published in a book..I was surprised they liked it.
    Once in awhile i do like to write.
    But I love to read. It takes you to places, places where your imigination likes to see things as colorful as you want.
    That was cool the author came to see you and your class! 🙂 Did he autograph your book you had?

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. Reading makes a tremendous difference. And yes, there are too many people who not only don’t read, but cannot spell. If I can instill the love of reading in my classroom, then those children are off to a good start. The author not only signed my book, he included a message for me. I am featured in chapter three, including a photo!

  6. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful quotation and story!

  7. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This post is a compelling testimony to the importance of reading aloud to children!

  8. Léa says:

    An early reader myself, I always made time to read to my children. Additionally, they could count on at least one book along with any other gifts they may receive on birthdays or any other special time. Furthermore, they learned early that mom was easy in a bookstore and would buy most any book as long as they were going to read it. If it was an unfamiliar one or one I had issues with, it was shared and discussed. Of course children’s books must be read with voices.

  9. Yes, reading and reading aloud is so important. I always had books, picture books of all kinds and read to my little ones and soon they were reading to me. They both have a great love of books and reading. Thank you for a great post.

  10. Doris says:

    I see many children, including toddlers, using ipads (?) that read to them. Can they possibly be getting the same benefits of listening & sharing a story with a live person ? I doubt it. I think the personal interaction is much more positive & rewarding to both the child & reader.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      You’re right, they can’t and they don’t. The personal interaction lets the reader stop to ask questions. What if the child wants/needs to ask a question? None of that can happen with an iPad. There is also a great benefit with a real book that can be fingered and held. Thanks for your comment and for reading the post!

  11. Tanya Cliff says:

    Excellent post! My children all love reading, and my oldest son is striving for a PhD in English with a literature emphasis. I believe that love was foster by reading to them daily when they were very young. Before they could actually read, they each would pick up their books and “pretend” to read – the same way I read to them.

  12. I love the tale of your literary renaissance. As an interesting sidebar, this site–http://www.readaloudtechnology.com/ — has some stuff showing that reading aloud is also great for adults. Truly a win-win. 🙂

  13. Sue Ranscht says:

    I bought The Read-Aloud Handbook when I was pregnant, and immediately started reading out loud. I think my first choice was Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010. lol. I was reading it for myself, but I figured the sound of my voice was a benefit for The Baby. 🙂 I became a licensed Day Care Provider when my son was 15 months old, and spent every lunch time reading picture book, and then classics like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland as the kids got older. Maybe the most impressive reading out loud event was the four afternoons (2 hours each) reading Crichton’s Jurassic Park, finishing the day before the movie came out. All the kids saw it that weekend, and they all agreed the book was better!

    Reading. Accept no substitutes. 🙂

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Sue, this is such a great story! I have read it multiple times, because it says so many good and important things. Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Jurassic Park… you are remarkable. Thank you! I got the book when my kids were little, and what a difference it made. Every baby shower I give the same gift, Goodnight Moon and The Read-Aloud Handbook. Wouldn’t change that for the world. Again, many thanks!

  14. Marvelous post for Get Caught Reading Month. Hugs!

  15. I grew up in a house across the street from a library. The library was my place of refuge where I spent many hours happily browsing, reading and researching subjects. I continue to visit the local library, also within walking distance, and credit this institution for my lifelong passion for books and writing.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      That is wonderful. If only all children could be introduced to libraries. Well, if only all children could be read aloud to… It’s what I do to make a difference with children. Lucky me.

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