The Read Aloud TATTLER (Text and Text Talk for raising Lifelong Engaged Readers) is a book-by-book guide for parents to help them (1) choose high-quailty books to read aloud and (2) engage their kids in “text talk” that results in good comprehension and reading success. This page describes the components of the TATTLER with brief instructions for use.
- Title (Author): Each TATTLER will contain one highlighted book for reading aloud. Books are selected because they are great read alouds and they contain specific features that make them particularly conducive to building specific reading skills (especially comprehension strategies and critical thinking).
- Listening Level: This is the approximate grade level at which a child can listen to and comprehend a text. It is NOT the reading level of the text, which until about 8th grade, is generally a couple years behind listening level. Keep in mind that you want most of your read alouds to be at your kids’ listening levels, not their reading levels! For example, if your child can read Dr. Seuss books easily, most of your read alouds should NOT be Dr. Seuss (or other I Can Read) books!
- Text Type: This specifies (a) whether the text is a picture book, chapter book, wordless picture book, graphic novel, or other text type; (b) whether the text is fiction or nonfiction; and (c) whether the book is a narrative text (story with a plot), informational text (tells factual information about a topic), or another text form
- Synopsis: This is a very brief summary of the text to help parents and teachers quickly identify whether the content is likely to appeal to their kids.
- Standout Text Features. This is a list of the special features that make the text (1) an excellent read aloud and (2) conducive to building specific skills required for reading success (which are identified with an *). While kids need choice in the books that they read on their own, reading aloud is an opportunity for parents to give kids experiences with high-quality literature that are meaningful and support the development of good thinking. Listing the “standout text features” for each highlighted book will hopefully show parents some things to consider when choosing books on their own.
- Challenge Words. This is a list of the most difficult words in the text, with child-friendly definitions. You can use this list to identify ahead of time whether the particular text has some new words for your child to learn. Remember, the number one source of vocabulary learning is books so try to make sure that a large percentage of the books you read aloud contain a rich and varied vocabulary, with at least some new words.
Whereas reading aloud in and of itself helps kids learn new words, even more robust vocabulary learning will result with additional attention to or analysis of the words. If we convey to our children the importance of uncovering the meanings of unknown words while reading aloud, they may actually take the time to do the same while reading on their own! A few things quick to do are:
1. Introduce and discuss a new word and its definition prior to starting your read aloud
2. Look up an unknown word together in a dictionary and read the definitions and synonyms. Discuss which synonym best fits the word in question. Even if you know the meaning, it is important to model for your child the importance of looking up word meanings while reading.
3. Try to use the new word together in several different sentences in order to reinforce the meaning.
4. Re-read aloud books with multiple new words. Second and third readings result in better vocabulary learning!
Other more extensive ideas for supporting vocabulary development during read alouds will sometimes be shared in the ‘text talk’ portion of the TATTLER.
- Target Comprehension (and Other Reading) Skills. These are the names of the one or few skills that are the primary focus of the suggested text talk for the selected book. These will usually be the comprehension strategies and skills that are most conducive to working on with the selected text. When the text calls for it, these will sometimes be other skills required for successful reading development.
- Before/During/After Questions. These are suggested questions to ask before, during, and after reading aloud with your child. Most of these questions will work specifically on building the target reading strategies and skills. Select a few that you like — DO NOT aim to ask all of these questions! For each question, there are two ways that parents can help kids become good thinkers while reading. Parents can use the question:
1. … to guide their own thinking aloud. While reading aloud, parents pause to ask the question to themselves (silently or aloud), and then they “think aloud” about their response. This helps kids to see the kinds of thinking good readers do.
- Example: Parent pauses and says: “I wonder what the character will do next. I predict that…” (prediction strategy)
- Example: Parent pauses and says: “I think the character is feeling really sad about that because…” (inferring character feelings strategy)
2. … to prompt kids to think and apply good comprehension strategies. While reading aloud, parents pause to ask the child a question. As necessary, parents join in on their kids’ response to nudge them towards thoughtful analysis of the text.
- Example: Parent pauses and says: “What do you think the character will do next?” If necessary, parent says something like: “You’re not sure…Hmmm, neither am I, but I’m going to guess that…”, or “That’s an interesting prediction…another possibility is that…”
- Before reading aloud. Ask one or two “before” questions while looking at the cover.
- While reading aloud. Most picture books (especially fiction) don’t have page numbers. So, if you’d like to use the specific TATTLER “while reading” questions, use a pencil to number the pages before you start to read. Page #1 will be the first page after the “front matter” with either illustration or text. For each TATTLER book, the “while reading aloud” section will specify where to start numbering. Also, to add clarity, the page numbers for each “while” question will be listed along with the first three words of text on the page.
The list of questions is to give you choice. Don’t ask all of them! Typically, asking 1-3 “while” questions is great!
- After reading aloud. Ask 1-2 “after” questions after reading the last page of the book.
- “Conversation Starters”. After reading aloud, ask 1-2 “conversation starter” questions to facilitate a bit of discussion about the text. These should be open-ended questions that encourage critical thinking skills such as analyzing, evaluating, and innovative thinking. The intent of these questions is to start a conversation, a mutual exchange of ideas with parent and child collaborating and building off of each others’ thoughts. Parents need to be active participants, not just questioners!
These social conversations, whether they are for one minute or are more extensive, encourage children to spend at least a small amount of time thinking after reading. They result in deeper comprehension and greater enjoyment of the book at hand. And, they make it more likely that children will have “conversations in their head” about future texts that are read independently.
- Bonus TATTLER Tips. This final section provides a few extra tips specific to the book for parents and/or kids who want to do more. These tips are not essential to the read aloud, nor are they arts-and-crafts projects related to books. (There are many great websites that can be checked out for that.) Instead, they are tips for going beyond that further build reading skills — especially comprehension strategies, world knowledge, vocabulary, and motivation to read! Some tips will just be for the fun of it! Many of these tips will:
1. build world knowledge with ideas for further reading, internet research, and related real-life experiences
2. link reading, writing, and thinking with written responses to texts
3. link to technology and internet search skills.
4. be just to build motivation!