Jim Trelease is a former journalist and the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, one of the most amazing books I've ever read. It's the book that consolidated for me all the things I'd understood intuitively about reading but hadn't been able to articulate.
The idea for The Read-Aloud Handbook came about when Jim started volunteering in community classrooms at the same time as he and his wife were raising their two children and reading aloud to them every day.
In the classrooms he visited, Jim noticed differences in the amount of reading children did and started to wonder why some children enjoyed reading and some didn't. He went on to examine the research and became fascinated by the evidence that reading could make such a huge difference in the lives and futures of children.
Jim initially self-published 'The Read-Aloud Handbook' in 1979 but it was picked up by Penguin in 1982 and republished. It then spent 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Jim went on to spend the next 30 years travelling around the US and abroad, talking to parents and teachers about the importance of reading and especially the magic that happens when we read aloud to our children.
Like Mem Fox, Jim Trelease strongly believes that reading should be fun for children and that the way to make this happen is for their parents to read to them. But it's not enough to just read aloud occasionally once our children are old enough to talk. We need to start as early as possible, ideally on the day our child is born and we need to do it every day.
Jim retired from public speaking in 2008 but still maintains his website which is full of information about literacy, reading, books and the effects of TV on children. If you’re a parent who’s even slightly interested in getting your baby or child into reading, set aside an hour or so one day and explore Jim’s website. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
I'd also like to suggest you try to get hold of a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook. The book is not expensive and it's very easy to read. Most importantly though, it really does contain everything you need to know to ensure your children learn to read easily and naturally and probably much earlier than you'd expect.
It will show you how to take the steps that will ensure that they become really good, confident readers and that they are successful at school. I know that last one’s a big claim but, if you read the book, you’ll see what I mean.
Both the website and The Read-Aloud Handbook contain some amazing stories of children who were read to from an early age and their achievements.
One of the most interesting stories Jim talks about is the story of Ben Carson, a boy from an underprivileged home who went on to achieve great things because his mother believed in the power and magic of reading.
There are also some remarkable stories which show the benefits of reading to children with intellectual disabilities.
Most libraries will have a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook but it’s worth buying your own if you can. It’s a book that you’ll probably want to read more than once and then dip into from time to time as your children grow.
It may be widely available in the US but here in Australia, I couldn't find it at our local library or in any of the bookshops I tried. I ended up buying my copy online from the Book Depository.