Library recommends read-along books for road trips

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 30, 2015

 The spines on the selected books have pink labels denoting them as read-along books. Readers can listen to the story as well as follow along with the book.

The spines on the selected books have pink labels denoting them as read-along books. Readers can listen to the story as well as follow along with the book.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


WEST BLOOMFIELD — It may seem easier to park kids in front of a screen while on a road trip, but experts suggest that read-along books are more interactive for children and the whole family.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children older than the age of 2 should not exceed on average two hours of screen time per day, according to Dr. Beth Swartz, a pediatrician with Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. Children younger than 2 years old should have zero screen time.

Although some tablet applications are educational, Swartz said screens move faster than books, and children don’t receive the same amount of person-to-person interaction. Even adults can get distracted when a screen is on in the background, she added. Parents say about 940 words per hour to a toddler; however, when a screen is on, the number of words declines to about 770 per hour, Swartz said.

Because the AAP’s recommendation is an average, if a parent knows a child is going to have minimal screen time while on vacation, it is OK to “bend the rules a little when you’re on a road trip,” Swartz said.

From picture books to nonfiction books, the West Bloomfield Township Public Library has a variety of read-along books available for kids to check out. Read-along books are books paired with a CD. Readers can listen to the book as they follow the words or pictures.

The library’s collection includes popular classics like “Curious George” and “Madeline,” and newer titles like Doreen Cronin’s “Diary of a Spider.” The library also has read-alongs that are specific to nursery rhymes and songs.

Youth services coordinator Jill Bickford said the collection is intended for young kids to emerging readers, but older children can check out a chapter book and an audio CD simultaneously to get the same effect.

“It’s great for the car or for at home when a parent isn’t available to do the reading,” Bickford said. “They can follow the words along to strengthen their reading skills, which helps them build their fluency.”

In addition to strengthening their reading skills, read-along books build listening skills, Bickford said. The readers on the CDs add humor and use different dialects and accents, which models how children should read aloud and tell a story.

“One of the great things with the read-alongs is, if you’re doing it in the car, the entire family gets to hear it. … The whole family is getting to enjoy a story together, which means they can then discuss it together,” Bickford said.

Schools have found read-along books to be effective in the classroom.

“A combination of hearing (the story) at the same time as you’re seeing it, for the (younger) kids, they pick up a lot about reading. They’re looking at the words and the letters and quietly figuring out what the (words sound like),” Swartz said.

Swartz said that while on a long road trip, parents should mix up screen time and books, and they should even engage in road trip games like finding letters on a license plate or naming the shape of road signs.

“With the read-along books, I think one of the nicest things about it is it slows the pace of everything down, especially on a really long ride. That can be priceless,” Swartz said.

To see the library’s collection, visit