A big part of making sure that you and your kids connect during read-aloud time is choosing books with a wide appeal. This isn't to say that every book will be everyone's favorite -- trust me, I've suffered through enough Thomas titles already to know that isn't the case -- but there should be something in each stack that's just downright fun for everybody. Pulling together a good mix of book titles is the best way to make this happen. It's kind of like a good movie -- high points, low points, dramatic tension, a little humor, and a satisfying resolution.
For us the highlight of the nightly read-aloud is what we call the "shout-it-out" title. These are the ones where Sprout's two-year-old sensibilities burst out, as he yells out lines, jumps up and down (or splashes, if he's in the bath) and makes goofy animal noises. This is usually the first or second title of the night, because as we progress I try to gradually gear down with gentler storylines and "sleepy" titles. So he's all revved up and ready to roll, and these books take full advantage of all that energy.
Another great one for boys and girls is The Little, Little Girl with the Big, Big Voice by Kristen Balouch. Lots to love here -- insanely colorful (and playful) illustrations, plenty of exotic animals (an orange snake! Sprout adores it), and best of all for us a little girl with brown skin! Again, a simple plot carries the day: one little girl has an awfully huge voice, which scares away every critter she wants to play with. All except one, that is, and he is the perfect match for this sweet but noisy darling. Kids will love shouting along -- we read it "there was a little, little girl with a BIG, BIG VOICE" -- and they'll be just as surprised by the ending as our heroine is. Perfect!
Just about every time we go to the library we look to see if this next title is in stock. Judging by the fact that it never is, I think the secret's out. But if you don't know it yet, Jump! by Scott M. Fischer is a sure-fire favorite in the making. Can't say enough about the power of rhyme in a successful read-aloud -- a couple times through and your little one will be finishing the sentences with you. The sing-song rhythm is infectious, and the surprise of each snoozing animal, resting quietly until someone else comes along, will spread to readers in equal measure. Fischer knows how to draw animals that kids will like, straddling the line between authenticity and cartoon goofiness. Don't even try to keep quiet with this one, because the punch line -- "JUMP!" -- is best when you shout it loud and long!
Got a favorite shout-it-out title of your own? Pass it on and keep the read-aloud joy alive!