The Power of Active Reading with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

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Phillip Hoffman
Active Reading allows caregivers and children to learn and practice the "ABCs of Active Reading" together.

Picture this: A crowd of children sit on the edge of their seats, heavily engaged with every turn of a popular children’s book, Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae. The librarian stops often to ask questions, but also pauses to inquire about the lives of the children.

The librarian shares, “Gerald was dancing. Do you like to dance?” The excited children scream “Yes!” and one young boy yells aloud, “My brother and I dance at home a lot!”

She keeps reading. “His hooves started shuffling, making circles on the ground.”

The librarian stops and says, “Hooves are the hard part of an animal’s foot. Can you point to the hooves of Gerald, the giraffe?” Several children stand and a precious young two-year-old points at the hooves of the giraffe. “You’re right, those are Gerald’s hooves. Let’s keep reading to find out what happens as Gerald dances.”

She keeps reading, beaming, sharing the last lines of the story:

“‘We all can dance,’ he said, ‘when we find music that we love.’”

“The end.” The crowd of participants, caregivers and their young preschool age children, clap loudly.

The librarian shares with the participants that now it is a special playtime for the children, as she is going to share what she calls the “ABCs of Active Reading” with parents and caregivers. The children scurry off to play as the parents listen and learn important strategies for reading aloud with children.

Not Your Average Read-Aloud

This is the scene of an Active Reading Family Workshop, offered at all library branches and outreach locations by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. This is not your average book read-aloud. In this special program offering, children, parents and caregivers participate in the workshop together to learn how to read actively at home. Caregivers learn to read WITH children, rather than TO children.

Active Reading is a proven way of reading aloud a picture book that increases language skills and vocabulary. When reading is an interactive experience, children are more apt to participate, and the reading experience is more enjoyable for the caregiver and child.

The workshops are taught in two, one-hour sessions, over the course of two weeks. Each week families can expect to participate in an Active Reading Storytime, playtime for children and a parent education time for adults. Families learn the “ABCs of Active Reading:” A-Ask Questions, B-Build Vocabulary and C-Connect to Kid’s Worlds. All families that participate leave with two free books each week, to practice their newfound Active Reading strategies.

A Thoughtful Collaboration

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library collaborated with the reading community initiative, Read Charlotte, in 2017 to develop and offer programs to share Active Reading with the Charlotte community. Read Charlotte was formed in response to reported 2017 testing results that only 39% of Charlotte’s third graders were reading proficiently as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This collaboration is one way we can work to achieve Read Charlotte’s bold goal of doubling the testing results of Charlotte third graders to 80% by 2025. In addition to Active Reading Family Workshops, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library offers a free one-hour Reading Mentor Training at all regional branches and by request from various organizations in Mecklenburg County. Since 2017, 308 Active Reading Family Workshops have occurred and 214 Reading Mentor Training sessions! 1,787 adults have participated in Active Reading Family Workshops, and 3,136 adults have received Reading Mentor Training. Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is committed to improving the literacy rates of children in Mecklenburg County.

Ways to Get Involved

Are you interested in learning about Active Reading? There are several ways to get involved with Active Reading at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Attend an Active Reading Family workshop or a Reading Mentor Training! Access the Library calendar by visiting: or visit your local Library branch. Try out Active Reading at home or at school with children. Just 15 minutes, three times a week can make a huge difference in a child’s language development and reading ability. If you can’t make it to your local Library, an online Active Reading Mentor Training course can be accessed for free at

Give children the power of Active Reading; it will develop them into lifelong lovers of reading.