Interactive Books (no batteries required)

15 Aug

A teacher friend told me that Freedom in Congo Square was the first book that one struggling student learned to read. The student’s mother, also a teacher, cried as her daughter read aloud. No doubt, the book’s interactive elements played a part in this small victory. Interactivity fosters reading comprehension and fluency.

My interactive books fall under three categories: books with rhyming refrains, books with call-and-response, and books with hooks. These structures engage listeners during read-alouds.

Refrains Like Playground Rhymes

Both Sugar Hill and Jazz Baby use repetition to celebrate Black culture. The recurring line “Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill where life is sweet” conveys Harlem’s energy. “Jazz baby, jazz baby” signals the interplay between musicians and listeners. One toddler loved Jazz Baby so much that he slept with the book.


With the phrase, “You can be a King,” this un-biography lifts up leadership traits that students can emulate. Before John Was a Jazz Giant, also repeats part of its title to conjure the sounds of Coltrane’s childhood.

Books with Hooks

The Roots of Rap is written as a rap lyric. Freedom in Congo Square is a day-of-the-week countdown celebrating a New Orleans landmark. And R-E-S-P-E-C-T echoes Aretha Franklin’s hit song, using hyphenated terms such as T-A-L-E-N-T and P-R-O-U-D to chart her journey from the church choir to international fame.

Young readers often put these infectious read-alouds on repeat and soon memorize the verses. So, these interactive texts virtually read themselves.

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