June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Picture Book Read-Alongs | Listen In

1510-ListenIn_ReadMe_bookThirty years ago, Becoming a Nation of Readers: A Report of the Commission on Reading presented this foundational statement that still resonates today: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

Reading a picture book aloud fosters print awareness, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension. Audiobook read-alongs help children acquire important visual and print literacy skills by allowing them to follow the story through text and illustrations without the burden of decoding. Read-along picture books teach reader-listeners that, in English, words are read from left to right, that words on the page represent the spoken language they are hearing, and sentences are read with inflection and set apart by capitalization and punctuation.

This month’s collection of read-along audiobooks for preschool through second grade listeners highlights the importance of seeing the book while listening to the story. Happy listening AND reading!

Arnold, Tedd. Hi! Fly Guy. illus. by Tedd Arnold. 1 CD with pb book. 6:38 min. Weston Woods. 2012. $18.95. ISBN 9780545478069.

PreS-Gr 2– This whimsical tale begins when a young boy named Buzz catches a fly. Then Fly Guy demonstrates a surprising array of talents. Clear, distinct enunciation and deliberate pacing underscore this early reader. Short chapters demonstrate how simple and complex vocabulary bring succinct and humorous events to young listeners. Jazzy, upbeat music and MacLeod Andrews’s fine narration round out this excellent production.

Bateman, Donna M. Out on the Prairie. illus. by Susan Swann. 1 CD with pb book. 20 min. Live Oak. 2014. $18.95. ISBN 9781430114550.

PreS-Gr 2– As she did in Deep in the Swamp (Live Oak Media, 2014), Bateman borrows the rhyming meter from “Over in the Meadow,” focusing this time on a prairie habitat. Tom Chapin’s deliberate pacing and energetic narration place the reader-listener’s attention firmly on Swann’s meticulous mixed-media illustrations. The prairie soundscape includes whistling wind, varied animal noises, and soft music. Chapin’s singing of the story is charming, and additional information on prairie life extends instructional use.

Brown-Wood, JaNay. Imani’s Moon. illus. by Hazel Mitchell. 1 CD with pb book. 16.54 min. Live Oak. 2015. $19.95. ISBN 9781430118985.

K-Gr 2– In this work, based on ­Maasai folklore, Imani is teased for being the smallest child in her village, but encouraged by her mama’s stories of the moon goddess to be tall and brave. Faith and perseverance help fulfill her dream of touching the moon and becoming her true self. Mitchell’s paintings evoke the African setting and Maame Yaa Boafo’s cadence and accent enhance the production, which includes village background noises and an author’s note.

George, Jean Craighead. The Eagles Are Back. illus. by Wendell Minor. 1 CD with tr book. 11:14 min. Live Oak. 2014. ISBN 9781430117759. $29.95.

Gr 1-3– Wendell Minor’s deep voice and luminous paintings illustrate the recovery of the American bald eagle. Excellent pacing, effective sounds, and music intensify George’s clear explanation of how the pesticide DDT decimated the eagle population and how human intervention saved the birds from extinction. The environmental cycle the bald eagle supports is outlined in this simple yet powerful story of the rejuvenation of our national symbol.

Henson, Heather. That Book Woman. illus. by David Small. 1 CD with tr book. 9:30 min. Weston Woods. 2010. $29.95. ISBN 9780545226431.

Gr 2-4– Bluegrass music and Walker Harrison’s youthful narration bring authenticity to the story of young Cal and an Appalachian librarian, who lightens the hardships of mountain life by delivering books on pack horse in weather both fair and foul. Cal’s reluctance to read eventually softens owing to the dedication of the welcomed visitor. Small’s illustrations and interview, along with an author’s note and interview, extend this lovely history lesson.

1510-ListenIn-CoverStripMartin, Jacqueline Briggs. Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious. illus. by Hayelin Choi. 1 CD with tr book. 16:49 min. Live Oak. 2014. $29.95. ISBN 9781430117810.

K-Gr 2 –Laura Hamilton’s pleasant timbre introduces acclaimed chef and Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters to young children. The recent proliferation of school vegetable gardens makes this a perfect choice for classroom use. Hamilton’s pacing, fitting sound effects, and background music pair well with Choi’s detailed illustrations. An afterword and author’s note, read by Waters and Briggs respectively, shed additional light on the subject.

Pinkney, Jerry. The Lion and the Mouse. illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 1 CD with tr book. 9:31 min. Weston Woods. 2010. $29.95. ISBN 9780545296618.

PreS-Gr 2– Visual literacy takes center stage in this superb audio production of Pinkney’s stunning, wordless fable of the mouse who is captured, then unexpectedly released by a lion. Evocative music and animal sounds combine with page-turn signals, alerting listeners to follow the visual cues on the way to discovering the familiar moral. A wonderful author’s note and interview add to the instructional use of the production.

Tuchman, Gail. Safari. 1 CD with pb book. 4 min. Live Oak. 2015. $19.95. ISBN 9781430118893.

PreS-Gr 1 –Dion Graham reads the brief, clear text about animals seen on safari in Africa. The descriptions are paired with beautiful, clear photos and animal sounds. An emergent reader for those just beginning to associate print with meaning, this package will be enjoyed by young animal lovers everywhere.

Vamos, Samantha R. The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. illus. by Rafael Lopez. 1 CD with pb book. 14 min. Live Oak. 2013. $19.95. ISBN 9781430114444.

K-Gr 2 –To expand units on rhyming or poetry, look no further than this whimsical cooking lesson in which a variety of farm animals help the titular maiden stir up a delicious batch of arroz con leche. Adriana Sananes’s unhurried narration is paired with humorous sound effects and jaunty music, leaving plenty of time to relish Lopez’s color-drenched illustrations.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Each Kindness. illus. by E.B. Lewis. 1 CD with tr book. Weston Woods. 2012. $29.95. ISBN 9780545670807.

K-Gr 2 –Nikki M. James reads with gentle conviction this story of the ways in which a lack of kindness also hurts the one who withholds it. The soft background music adds a haunting quality to the production as shabbily dressed new girl Maya, gracefully depicted by Lewis, is rejected by popular Chloe and her friends. The lack of a happy ending will have a particularly strong impact on young listeners—Maya moves away, leaving Chloe regretting her choices.

Sharon Grover is head of youth services at the Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI. Lizette (Liz) Hannegan was a school librarian and the district library supervisor for the Arlington (VA) Public Schools before her retirement.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Scot Felderman says:

    Simply reading to a child is probably not the strongest strategy for building emergent literacy skills, context, and comprehension. Dialogic reading, and related dialogic conversations offer learning opportunities that shared booking reading does not.

    • Tracy Ferguson says:

      Dialogic reading is reading and having conversations about books—Why should we complicate what we tell parents and caregivers?? If we can consistently preach READ ALOUD to your child–then the conversations usually follow. Why would we want to make it more complicated for folks who are trying to do what’s best for their child–but might not have a background in children’s literacy strategies?? And for the parents who will read aloud–but don’t have as many conversations—AT LEAST the kids are hearing books read aloud! Let’s keep it simple by encouraging parents to READ to their children. Most of the time, conversations will follow!

      • READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN by Megan Dowd Lambert gives parents and caregivers… anyone who shares picture books with children the foundation for starting conversations about picture books and story with children. A specialist prepares the lay person with The Whole Book Approach. Available November 3 from Charlesbridge.