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Jim Trelease (born March 23, 1941), also known as James Joseph Trelease, is an educator and author who stresses reading aloud to children as a way to instill in them the love of literature.
James “Jim” Trelease was born on March 23 in Orange, New Jersey to George Edward and Jane (Conlan) Trelease, a Cornish American family. In 1945, his family moved to Union, New Jersey where he attended St. Michael Parish School. In 1952, his family moved to North Plainfield, New Jersey. Here he attended Stoney Brook Junior High and North Plainfield High School. Three years later, he moved again to Springfield, Massachusetts and attended Cathedral High School. He graduated in 1959. From 1959 to 1963, Trelease was enrolled in the University of Massachusetts, where he received a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1963, he married Susan Kelleher; the couple has two children: Elizabeth Jane and James Joseph, Jr. Trelease. He served in United States Army Intelligence from 1964 to 1966 as a First Lieutenant.
Trelease lectured to school groups and educational gatherings across the nation from 1979 until 2008, often in conjunction with purveyors of books for young people, about the fundamental importance of youthful reading to the entire process of education.
- 1963-1983—Springfield (MA) Daily News - writer and staff artist
- 1983-2008—Self-employed, owner of the education consultant company, Reading Tree Publications
- 2008–present—Retired from lecture, continues to maintain his website www.trelease-on-reading.com
Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game
Jim helped to put an end to a controversy over Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game. In 1990, a reel-to-reel tape of Bill Campbell's entire fourth quarter call surfaced. Jim had recorded a 3 a.m. re-broadcast of the fourth quarter of the game. The NBA merged the reel-to-reel with the Dictaphone tape, which also included a short postgame show.
The Read-Aloud Handbook
During his time working for the Springfield Daily News, now the Springfield Republican, Trelease began weekly volunteer visits to community classrooms to talk to children about journalism and art as possible careers. Trelease noticed that many of the students in these classrooms did not read much for pleasure, but the students who did most often came from classrooms where teachers read aloud daily and incorporated Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) into the daily class routine. Trelease began to think that there may be a connection between being read to and a child's desire to read. It turned out that there was in fact a correlation, but the information and research was published in education journals or written in academic language that exceeded the understanding of the average parent or teacher, so Trelease was inspired to write and self-publish the first edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979.
In The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, Sixth Edition, 2006), Trelease discusses the fundamentals of reading aloud to children: why to do it, when to begin, the stages of reading aloud, how to do it, and even how not to do it. He also explains how sustained silent reading works hand in hand with reading aloud. In addition to a treasury of read-aloud favorites in this volume, Trelease has edited and published two anthologies of popular read-alouds, Hey! Listen to this: Stories to Read Aloud (Penguin, 1992) and Read All About It! Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, & Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens (Penguin, 1993).
Trelease says: “We read to children for all the same reasons we talk with children: to reassure, to entertain, to bond, to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity, to inspire. But in reading aloud, we also:
- Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure;
- Create background information;
- Build vocabulary;
- Provide a reading role model.
One factor hidden in the decline of students’ recreational reading is that it coincides with a decline in the amount of time adults read to them. By middle school, almost no one is reading aloud to students. If each read-aloud is a commercial for the pleasures of reading, then a decline in advertising would naturally be reflected in a decline in students recreational reading” (p. 4).
Trelease also attributes the decline of recreational reading amongst children to an overall decline in newspaper readership. Children who come from homes containing more print, such as newspapers and books, have the highest reading scores. Fewer American homes have a daily newspaper, so fewer children see a parent reading, leaving them less to model on.
Trelease goes on to discuss the two “reading facts of life” that he asserts are largely ignored by education:
- “Human beings are pleasure-centered.”
- “Reading is an accrued skill.” (p. 4)
Reading aloud to a child combines both of these in one simple activity.
These and many other excerpts from Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook can be found online at http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/rah-intro.html.
The Read Aloud Phenomenon
The first Penguin edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook led to six additional U.S. editions, as well as British, Australian, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese versions. Nearly two million copies of the Handbook have been sold worldwide, and it was the inspiration for PBS's "Storytime" series. It is also used as a text for future teachers, and is the basis for more than 3,000 elementary and secondary schools adopting sustained silent reading as a regular part of the academic day.
The Handbook was a pivotal force between 1979 and 2008 for read-aloud movements in the United States and abroad. Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Nebraska, Hawaii, and one European country (Poland) launched state- and country-wide campaigns based on Trelease's work and seminars. Poland launched its national campaign, "All of Poland Reads to Kids," in 2001, and by 2007 the polls showed that over 85 percent of Polish people knew of the reading campaign and 37 percent of parents of preschoolers reported that they were reading daily to their children. More information on "All of Poland Reads to Kids" can be found at the foundation's website: http://www.allofpolandreadstokids.org/home
Awards, Honors, and Publications
- 1979 - Self-published 32-page booklet Read-Aloud Handbook for Parents and Teachers, subsequently published by Weekly Reader Books, Middletown, CT
- 1980 - First place for feature writing, Associated Press - New England for feature “Trip to Fenway Drives Home Truth - Right Off the Bat,”  Springfield Daily News
- Last reprint - Read All About It! (Penguin Books, 1993)
- 1982 - The Read-Aloud Handbook, trade paperback edition (Penguin Books, US)
- 1983 - The Read-Aloud Handbook on New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks
- 1983 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin-Great Britain edition)
- 1985 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin Australia edition)
- 1985 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, revised U.S. edition)
- 1988 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Japanese edition)
- 1988 - Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to reading, presented by Educational Paperback Publishers Association
- 1989 -Designated by International Reading Association as one of eight “Greats of the 80’s” reading educators
- 1989 - The New Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, revised, third U.S. edition)
- 1992 - Hey! Listen to This (Viking Penguin), anthology, editor
- 1992 - International Reading Association Print Media Award (1st prize) for “Read Me a Story,” article in February 1991 Parents Magazine
- 1993 - Read All About It! (Viking Penguin), anthology, editor
- 1994 - Elms College, Honorary Doctor of Laws
- 1995 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, revised, fourth U.S. Edition)
- 1995 - The Read-Aloud Handbook audiobook (Penguin-Highbridge), narrated by JimTrelease, named one of “Year’s Best Audiobooks” by Publishers Weekly
- 2001 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, revised, fifth U.S. Edition)
- 2002 - Western New England College, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
- 2004 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Spanish edition), Bogota, Colombia
- 2005 - “Turning On the Turned-off Reader,” audio recording by Jim Trelease (Reading Tree Productions)
- 2006 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Chinese edition)
- 2007 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Korean edition)
- 2007 - “Jim Trelease on Reading Aloud,” DVD lecture for parents, teachers, Reading Tree Productions 
- 2008 - Read-Aloud Handbook (Indonesian edition)
- 2009 - Read-aloud brochures (series on reading-related issues), produced for use by non-profit organizations for free distribution to parents, teachers, and secondary students www.trelease-on-reading.com/brochures.html
- The Read-Aloud Handbook, 1982, The New Read-Aloud Handbook, 1989,The Read-Aloud Handbook, Sixth Edition, 2006.
- Reading Aloud: Motivating Children to Make Books Into Friends, Not Enemies (film), 1983.
- Turning On the Turned Off Reader (audio cassette), 1983.
- (Editor) Hey! Listen to This: Stories to Read Aloud, 1992.
- (Editor) Read all About It!: Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, and Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens, 1993.
- Jim Trelease on Reading Aloud, DVD, 2007.
- Rowse, A.L. The Cousin Jacks, The Cornish in America
- "Jim Trelease Biographical Page".
- Pomerantz 2005, p.203
- Fitzpatrick, Frank (May 11, 2005). "From Wilt's big night, a tale of the tape In 1962, a radio listener in a college dormitory turned on his reel-to-reel recorder - and preserved history forever". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- Trelease, Jim (June 4, 2005). "Wilt's Big Night". Weekend America (Interview). Interview with Radke, Bill. American Public Media. Archived from the original (RealAudio) on February 3, 2012.
- Trelease, J. (2006) The read-aloud handbook. New York: Penguin.
- Trelease, Jim. "Jim Trelease's Retirement Letter-p. 1".
- "James J(oseph) Trelease". Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006.
- Schwartz, David M. "Ready, set, read - 20 minutes each day is all you'll need". Smithsonian, February 1995 v25 n11 p82(8).