Monday Book Talk AND GIVEAWAY: “What to Read When,” by Pam Allyn

Thanks to Jessica Lee at Penguin Group USA for making this book available for review!

What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child--and All the Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn
What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child – and All the Best Times to Read Them
Pam Allyn
Avery Books, 2009 (paperback) (ISBN 1583333347 / 9781583333341)
Nonfiction (education/reading), 336 pages

One of my favorite parts of the early years of parenting was reading aloud with my son. I believe that you can’t start this too soon – hook ’em young, I say! – and while bedtime reading with my son was a ritual by the time he was a year old, that wasn’t the only time we read together. By the time he was four, he was able to read by himself, but we kept the bedtime-reading custom going for a couple more years. I give a lot of credit to our read-aloud time for his early reading development, but that’s far from the only benefit that children – and parents – can gain from reading together. Pam Allyn, an award-winning reading instructor and children’s literacy advocate, elaborates on the benefits, as well as effective strategies and tools for reading with kids, in What to Read When.

When Allyn talks about reading with your child, she’s talking about what she calls “the read-aloud,” which many of us parents may think of as reading to our children. But she offers suggestions and strategies to make that reading time a more interactive, engaged experience for both kids and parents – one that we can, and should, continue well past the time when our kids have learned to read by themselves. As she notes, there are books that a child may have the skill to read before he has the maturity to comprehend them fully, and those are ideal for read-alouds with a school-aged child.

Allyn starts off the book with a discussion about why parents must read to and with their children, outlines what she calls the “four keys” to developing a lifelong reader, addresses common concerns about supporting a child’s reading life, and provides instruction in how to read aloud effectively. (I wish I’d had that back in the day…) She then gets into the real meat of the book – “what to read when.”

The author addresses “when” in two different ways. First, she takes a chronological approach that she calls “the Reader’s Ladder,” and offers a range of suitable reading suggestions for every age from birth to ten years old. In the next, longest section of the book, she considers fifty “themes” that come up in the course of children’s lives and offers books that address each one, including “talk about it” sections for some that may help the parent and child get the most from the book. Particularly in the “themes” section, she repeatedly makes the point that books are a great means to get conversation going and help kids understand the world. Allyn’s reading recommendations are both contemporary and classic, fiction and nonfiction, culturally diverse, and offer every reading level and stage of development a variety of suggestions. They’re also entirely optional; she has compiled a resource for parents, not made a “required-reading” list. The reading advice is helpful, not prescriptive, and aimed at fostering the read-aloud experience.

I accepted this book for review even though my own days of read-alouds are well past (although I may get another chance with grandchildren – some day) because I really believe reading to and with our kids is important. I was impressed with Pam Allyn’s book and feel comfortable recommending it; I think she has put together an excellent guide for parents who really want to make read-alouds something that we used to call “quality time” when my son was young, back in the ’80’s.

However, since I’m not in that stage myself any more, I‘m offering my (read just once, still in very good condition) review copy of What to Read When in a giveaway! If you’re interested, here’s how to enter:

  • For one entry, leave a comment on this post and tell me about one of your favorite books to read with your kids, or a book you’re looking forward to reading with them some day (maybe when you have them). Please include your e-mail address if it’s not in your blog profile!
  • For one additional entry, mention the giveaway in a post on your own blog. Leave a link to the post in a comment here.
  • For one additional entry, tweet about the giveaway on Twitter. Leave a link to your profile in a comment here (I’m not sure individual tweets can be linked – if they can, please do!).
  • Comments that do NOT mention a favorite read-aloud AND include an e-mail address will NOT be valid for entry in the giveaway!
  • Entries will be accepted until Wednesday, April 22.

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  1. I’ve been eyeing this book for a while and would love to be entered to win it! When I was a kid, I loved the Noddy stories by Enid Blyton. I am sure I will love to read those books to my kids (when I have some!)


  2. I am an elementary school teacher, so I read aloud daily and love it! I would love to have this book. My favorite book to read aloud is by Mem Fox, called Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.

    shelcows AT gmail DOT com

  3. I love reading Robert Munsch books to my kids, I make sure to add the inflection and as for the ones I’ve heard him read, I try to read iut like that because it sounds better.

    callista83 AT cogeco DOT ca

  4. I’d love to win this – it might help me with Kiddo, my reluctant and struggling reader.

    One book we really enjoyed as a read-aloud recently was THE ARK, THE REED AND THE FIRE CLOUD. It included animal characters from around the world, and Kiddo loved my attempts at all the accents.

    My email is in my profile. Thanks for the contest!

  5. I’m still reading aloud to my 17 year old twins and working my way through the Harry Potter books for the second time aloud with my two younger boys. I have always loved reading aloud a very old book full of wonderful rhymes called “I Can’t, Said the Ant.” You can find me at


    2kopeople at gmail dot com

    Thanks for the contest entry.

  6. This book sounds interesting. I love reading to my boys. My favourite books to read to my oldest are books by Julia Donaldson – The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom especially but I do love all of her books.

    You didn’t mention if this giveaway is open internationally, so don’t enter me in this!

  7. We’re currently enjoying reading aloud the book “Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie” by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka. (The same duo who did “The Hello, Goodbye Window”). You can email me at peanutboo2ATgmailDOTcom.

  8. oooooh, count me in!

    I love the Sandra Boynton books for read-alouds for my littlest, esp. ‘Barnyard Dance’ and ‘Pajama Time’.

    I also love, love Daniel Kirk’s ‘Truck is Stuck’ and ‘Chugga Choo-Choo’ and am just getting into good ole Shel Silverstein and ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ poems.

    Thanks for a rockin’ contest!!

  9. Please don’t enter me in the giveaway. I just wanted to say that this does sound like a worthwhile book to read. I was fortunate to have parents who did take time to read with me.

  10. This is a great idea–I don’t want to enter for the giveaway, because my kids are older now, but I came over here from Spynotes to see what other landmark books were mentioned. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was my biggest landmark book to read aloud to my kids.

  11. My daughter is eight and I read aloud to her every night. I think the Little House on the Prairie series was one of our favorites. Now, though she loves the Mysterious Benedict Society books and the Sisters Grim series.

    myfreshhell AT hotmail DOT com

  12. I read to my niece and nephew (5 and 8) every night. We read some picture books, and then I like to read a couple of chapters in a longer book. Right now “we” are reading A CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE by George Seldon. They are so loving it!! They just call it The Cricket Book.
    I’d love to have to have this giveaway book to refer to – especially as the kids get older. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com