Singing Book Reviews, Potty Training and Other Benefits of Reading Aloud

Today we are honored to share a guest blog by our WRADvocate Lisa Cohn. She and her son Michael Cohn are co-authors of the award-winning “Bash And Lucy Fetch Confidence.” They were recently featured on the Today show for Michael’s love of books and YouTube book reviews. Learn more by visiting

When my son Michael was a toddler, I had trouble potty-training him, until I came up with an idea: If I did something he loved—really loved—while he was sitting on the potty, then maybe he’d sit there long enough to learn how to use the potty.

So I lured him to the potty with a book or two. And I offered to read to him while he sat. In no time, my strategy worked.

Now Michael is five, and he continues to link most bodily functions with being read a book.

It goes like this: “I’ll eat two cheese sandwiches if you read me two books.” Or, “I’ll stop playing long enough to go pee if you read to me first."

We don’t just bargain about bodily functions. Everything is a read-aloud deal.

As soon as he wakes, Michael says something like, “Let’s read. I can’t go to school without finding out what happened in “Nate the Great and the Missing Key.” Next, of course, we’re back to trying to get him to eat. “Read to me while I have breakfast,” he insists.

Michael then packs his 24 Scooby-Doo! Collect The Clue books into a bag, saying that he plans to share them with his friends on the playground at school.  When I pick him up a few hours later, he asks me to read to him and his friends on the top of the jungle gym. And yes, I read to him and four or five friends perched at the tippy-top of the playground.

Why do I spend what seems like half my day reading to Michael? The benefits are enormous. First of all, it’s a great way to connect with him. I ignore the buzzing of texts, emails and tweets issuing from my iPhone for a few precious moments and we snuggle and laugh and talk.

We have lots to talk about. After each book comes the review. Michael loves to provide his analysis. “This Scooby-Doo book was different than most of them because Shaggy gets trapped,” he says. “That never happened before.” Or, “Usually the monster is a person wearing a mask. In ‘Scooby-Doo! And You: The Case of the Leaping Lion’ the monster actually is a picture made by a computer.

While he reviews, he makes friends. That’s another benefit of our read-aloud time. At the bookstore, after we read a book, he invariably starts talking to a dad and kid about the story. He also gives his reviews to the check-out person, climbing up on the shelf where he’s supposed to be depositing his books. “I give ‘Walter the Farting Dog” 25 stars,” he says.

Michael learns so much from the books I read to him. He often spouts facts gleaned from Velma in Scooby-Doo—facts about the physics behind waves, for example. And of course, sharing his love of books has helped make Michael a great communicator. If you’ll listen, he’ll talk—about the cool dad in “Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble,” or the follow-you-everywhere “Oliver” character in Nate the Great.

Michael’s book reviews, which appear on our YouTube channel, landed him on the Today Show, an event that was pretty big in my life, but just another day in the bookstore for Michael. Now he’s discovered yet another way to share his love of books: He started writing singing book reviews. You can watch one here:

From the potty to the piano, Michael takes his books with him everywhere and integrates them into everything he does. We hope his enthusiasm for books is contagious; that’s one of the many reasons we’re celebrating World Read Aloud Day March 5, with a Skype in the Classroom lesson. Parents and teachers, please join us by reading to your children on World Read Aloud Day.

We promise: We won’t make you sing—or go potty.