The Glorious Power of Reading Aloud — and the Contagious Nature of Giggles

BookendsLynn: The oldest members of the Focus Group are growing up too fast! The twins started sixth grade this fall and now have Cindy as their librarian. Fortunately, the two youngest Focus Group members (Henry, 4, and Oscar, 14 months), are major book lovers and I treasure my time reading with them on our visits. As much as I love snuggling and testing books with Henry, I think I may love watching the older boys read to the youngest ones just as much. Henry adores his older cousins and watching the big boys read to him turns me into a complete marshmallow. Here are two books that got all of them giggling so much they could hardly breathe. 

Never underestimate the impact of an
older kid reading to a younger one.

TelephoneThe first, Telephone (2014) by Mac Barnett, is a book I first read to Henry a few months ago. I initially thought he might be a bit young for it but he loved the story. High above the houses on the telephone wire, a momma bird tells a baseball-bat-toting cardinal, “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The little cardinal says to goose, “Tell Peter: Hit pop flies and homers.” As the message moves from bird to bird it gets progressively more garbled and funnier and funnier. Henry thought it was hilarious. Jen Corace’s delightful illustrations provide visual clues to each bird’s mangled message and the combined effect left us both giggling helplessly. We read it several times but I had to bring the book back home with me. Henry didn’t forget it, though, and it was the first one he pulled off the shelf for reading time.

goofy no picturesWhen B. J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures (2014) arrived, the twins decided it was perfect for Henry and took turns reading it aloud, getting sillier and sillier. They could hardly wait for Henry’s Thanksgiving visit and I’m not sure who has enjoyed the experience more. The book, of course, has absolutely no pictures. But the reader has to read exactly what is on the page and Novak’s text is wonderfully ridiculous, becoming progressively funnier as the joke spools out. Here are all the focus group members (except baby Oscar) being thoroughly goofy with this fun book.

These two books are perfect examples of the glorious power of reading aloud and the contagious nature of giggles. Never underestimate the impact of an older kid reading to a younger one.

Cindy: This report cheers me so. I hear frequently from parents that their child has moved on from picture books and is reading chapter books now. The implication that picture books are only for laptime reading makes me indignant. I understand the pride of having your child become a proficient reader, but don’t miss out on the wealth of storytelling, art, information, wonder, humor, language, and delight that is found in classic and current picture books. Many of them contain stories and information that is lost on a three- or four-year-old. I just designed an informational picture book research project with my seventh-grade advanced English classes (more on that later) and the students are surprised by how much they are enjoying the picture books. Lynn’s grandsons have been testing picture books for us for years now, and I’m delighted that they are willing to continue and are sharing their enthusiasm with their younger cousins. The Focus Group’s arrival at my middle school this fall was a shock, although a fun one. Seeing their smiling faces every day helps me cope with how fast the years are spinning. I think I need to go read another picture book in my stack! And, hey, Focus Group, would you quit hogging The Book With No Pictures? I’d like to at least read it once!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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