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.”

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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.

To this day, my gift to a new baby is a copy of Goodnight Moon, and a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook to the parents.  Best gift any new parent could get.  Guaranteed!

Jennie

This post was originally published May 1, 2016.

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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.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Imagination, picture books, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Jim Trelease Quote, Reading and Writing, and a Journey of Teaching

  1. Ritu says:

    I still read to my own kids. They ask me too. They are old enough to read themselves, but the bonding we get from me reading… and the things they learn about expression… 💗

  2. Oh this is a beautiful post. I dont have kids but neices and this heart warming. I think read out load as an adult is also inspiring.

  3. Amy D. says:

    Just lovely. Time for me to check out The Read-Aloud Handbook! Do you have any book suggestions for preschool chapter reading?

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Amy! I read Charlotte’s Web, The Story of Dr. Dolittle, My Father’s Dragon, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Little House in the Big Woods. I get halfway through Little House on the Prairie. The Read-Aloud Handbook is SO good. I have had it since the early 80’s.

  4. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Right on, teacher!

  5. Darlene says:

    I read to my kids from the day they were born, maybe even sooner than that. When my kids got old enough to read on their own, I would read one page and they would read the next. We got to experience some great books that way. Great memories for all of us.

  6. beetleypete says:

    As much as I enjoyed my teachers reading to us, a I also loved it when we each took a character from a book, and read their lines. (I recall doing this with Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer) It really helps with understanding and development, and does indeed want to make you read more.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. I certainly recall being read to when I was young. Good to hear this is one concept that hasn’t gone out of style. Who doesn’t love reading…and hearing…a good story?!

  8. Interesting post. I read lots with my daughter and she seems to share my love of books.

  9. Reading aloud to children is wonderful on so many levels. Great post! 😊

  10. Reading together was one of our greatest past times when my Son was young. That time is something I will always treasure and hold close to my heart. ❤

  11. I can imagine you wanting to stand up and yell, “Listen to this man!” Ha ha. So inspiring and you’re right about how powerful reading aloud to children is. There are so many simple, free, easy things we can do to make life more enjoyable, to take care of ourselves and our children, and pave the way for a successful future. Reading to children is one of them. 🙂

  12. Reading is the greatest gift a parent can give a child or grandparent. I began taking my kids and grandkids to the library when they were babies. Today they are all avid readers.

  13. Simply-Me says:

    Thank you Jennie, loved your post, I’ll definitely recommend this to others whom I know would love this book and your post.
    I have a niece and a nephew and I’m sure they’ll love this.

    Haha ‘listen to this man’ lol

    Thank you Jennie.

  14. Great post, I’ll be catching up on your newer ones, ASAP! I remember hearing Jim speak at a library event years ago–good stuff!

  15. Di says:

    Jennie…. I’m thrilled to be following you….
    Whist not in early education,
    I’m absolutely enjoying your wisdom and as a very young mum, I’m so proud to say that I was reading my 4 month old his first book. And thus beginning my journey of reading to all three of my children.
    My husband made the decision to read The Hobbit at bedtime to our children even as new teens. It was for together time and sharing a book he adored so much too.
    The final piece of why I’m so thrilled to follow you… that same firstborn son has a beautiful girlfriend who has returned to study this year to become… a kinder teacher. I’m giving her your blog for reading when she has time after study.
    Thank you again. You are truly inspiring 🙏🏼💕

    • Jennie says:

      Di, that is so very nice of you to say. Thank you! Yesterday I came home fifteen minutes late because a child asked me to read him a story. His Mom joined us and it was a moment that perhaps moved mountains. That’s what a good book does. I am happy to hear of your son’s girlfriend’s decision to become a teacher. Thank you for sharing my blog with her. I love your family read aloud story, too. Wonderful! Best to you!

      • Di says:

        You are creating beautiful ripples Jennie…. what a magic thing to take place yesterday for you… And yes, I’ll certainly show her your site.
        Enjoy your new day with the precious little ones and bye for now. Thanks again,
        Di 🌼🌼🦋🦋

      • Jennie says:

        🙂❤️😀

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