Creating the Read-Aloud Connection
By Pam Leo

“Few children learn to love books by themselves, someone has to lure them into the wonderful written world; someone has to lead the way.” Orville Prescott, author, A Father Reads To His Children

It’s March and you know what that means? Yes, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Spring will soon be here. March is also National Reading Awareness Month! Last March, I introduced you to Read Aloud 15 Minutes. This national campaign was created to raise parents’ awareness of the great importance of reading aloud to babies, beginning at birth. I am happy to report that recent surveys show that 400,000 more babies and 800,000 more 3-5 year olds are being read to. As a literacy passionate citizen and a community partner helping to spread the Read Aloud 15 Minutes message, I am thrilled to learn that our efforts are making a difference.

This March, I am very excited to continue raising the bar of our reading awareness by introducing you to the work of Sarah Mackenzie and her team at Read-Aloud Revival. Sarah, my new read-aloud mentor, is a busy homeschooling mother of six children. Her passion is supporting more than 80,000 read-aloud families in “making meaningful and lasting relationships with their children through books.” Sarah’s conviction that, “The absolute best way to connect with our kids is through stories,” is the foundation of her online read-aloud resource, Read-Aloud Revival. “RAR” is a goldmine of read-aloud information, inspiration and encouragement. Getting her weekly Tuesday morning email is one of the highlights of my week! I consider her blogs and podcasts to be part of my continuing literacy education.

Sarah and her team support parents, grandparents and caregivers in doing what she calls, “the simplest, yet most important thing we can do for children: teaching them to love stories through reading books aloud to them.” Reading books aloud to children of all ages not only builds their foundation for literacy, it builds character and family connections that will last a lifetime. One of the things I love about the way Sarah talks and writes about reading aloud to children is how real she is and how respectful she is of parents. She never makes parents feel guilty if they don’t read to their children “every” day. Sarah advocates reading aloud for at least ten minutes “most” days. She did the math and shares that if we do read aloud for 10 minutes every day for a year, that is 60 hours of reading aloud. Even if we can only manage 10 minutes every other day, that is still 30 hours a year, which will strengthen the parent-child connection and give our children a significant educational advantage.

Sarah is convinced that teaching children to absolutely love stories, before they are ever taught the mechanics of reading, is the key to success. This success is not only measured by children learning to read, but by children learning to love to read. This means that it’s “our” job, as parents, grandparents and caregivers, in those few precious years between birth and school, to try to teach children to love stories by regularly reading aloud to them. If we do “our” job, teachers can more readily do “their” job of teaching our children to decode the words on the page so they can read stories for themselves. Our children’s future quality of life and standard of living will depend on their ability to read competently. Even if children grow up in homes where the parents either never learned to read or do not read English, they can learn to love stories if they are told stories. Children love to hear stories of their parents’ and grandparents’ childhood. If there are picture books in the home those parents can share books with their children by reading the pictures and inventing a story to match the pictures.

The thing I love most is Sarah’s motivation to support families who are newly embarking on this read-aloud journey. Her enthusiasm for the value of reading aloud and her insistence that reading aloud needs to be done in a way that is joyful for both parents and children, reminds me of a favorite quote by Mem Fox, “When I tell parents, read to your children, I don’t want them to hear medicine. I want them to hear chocolate.” Children can tell if we are having a good time or not, so only read books that you enjoy too. Helping find age appropriate books the whole family will enjoy, is where RAR really shines. Sarah has created book lists for every month of the year and every occasion that can be downloaded for free. These lists make it easy to locate great read aloud books when families head out to the library or bookstore. When Sarah recommends a book, I usually read it, and I have never been disappointed.

In 2018, Sarah is challenging families to read one picture book every day that they can, and to download her free year-at-a-glance calendar. That’s a challenge a plan to accept! This calendar can be printed and used to track the days that the goal has been met. It’s a wonderful visual tool for a family to celebrate their read- aloud accomplishments. Picture books are not just for preschoolers. Many teachers are now reading picture books to their middle and high school students. Since a whole picture book can be read in 10 minutes, it can be a fun way to come together for family reading time and further connect by discussing the book.

There are so many tips and ideas on the RAR blogs and podcasts, about how to make family read aloud time the best part of the day that I can’t begin to share them all here. Another exciting event taking place in March is the release of Sarah’s new book, The Read-Aloud Family. I can’t wait to get my copy! If you want to spend your parenting time and energy making meaningful and lasting connections with your children, while giving them the best possible foundation for their education, I recommend making 2018 the year you dedicate to becoming a read-aloud family. If you already are one, you will absolutely love RAR’s blogs, podcasts and book lists. If you are now choosing to become a read-aloud family, you will appreciate the information, inspiration and encouragement this unique resource provides. Either way, one thing is for sure, when our children are grown something we will never say is, “I wish I had read to my children less.”

Pam Leo, is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting, and a new poem, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children's books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents, are combined in her new role as the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is "No Child With No Books," because "Books change children's lives... For good."


Pam Leo, is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting, and a new poem, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children's books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents, are combined in her new role as the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is "No Child With No Books," because "Books change children's lives... For good."