Here are some effective tips on how you can read aloud with your child in a way that makes the stories come alive!
As a teacher, I've been involved in reading stories to children for years. I've discovered that when you read you can either:
- put your child-sized audience (and anyone else listening) to sleep or
- have them on their edge of their seats and entranced by every word.
Personally, I feel that the aim of any book reading should ALWAYS be to make books come alive for children. These reading times should be full of enthusiasm so that reading is fun! Reading books together must:
- Enrich our relationships with children
- Spark imaginations
- Extend vocabulary
- Inspire creativity
- Arouse curiosity
- Foster a love of reading.
While this may sound like an impossible task, it's actually really easy. All you need to do is follow some simple principles.
Read Aloud - Principle One: A Great Book
Choose a book which both you and your child like. It's difficult to be enthusiastic when reading a book that you don't like ... or worse still ... which you find irritating! The way you feel about a book can quickly be felt by children even if you don't specifically say anything. They can 'read' your attitude and feelings through your body language, vocal tone and the manner in which you read.
Read Aloud - Principle Two: Time
Choose a time when you and your child are both able to relax together with a book.
Read Aloud - Principle Three: Location
Find a suitable place to read together. This needs to be somewhere inviting and comfortable. It should be a place where you can both snuggle together around the book.
A big chair is perfect. So are some enormous, soft and ever so comfortable you-must-sit-on-me-cushions!
For some suggestions, check out: Create Your Own Irresistible Story Corner.
Read Aloud - Principle Four: Enthusiasm
This is a main principle. In fact, it's one of the most important. When you read a story, you have to be enthusiastic. How do you show your enthusiasm? Well you could say, "I'm enthusiastic about this book" ... but that wouldn't really amount to anything of value.
Enthusiasm is shown not told.
Enthusiasm can be conveyed, or shown, through:
- Your eyes which declare this is a fantastic story.
- Your body language which proclaims "you're absolutely, positively going to love this story!"
- Your voice which conveys the feeling that you can't wait to share this story with your listeners.
Read Aloud - Principle Five: Drama
At first, you may think that reading a story has absolutely nothing to do with acting. However, when you stop to think about it, to read a story aloud in a way that captivates your listeners you need to dramatise it.
This doesn't mean that you need to develop elaborate costumes and stage sets. A story can be dramatised out using your body language and voice.
You can alter your vocal tone, pitch, volume and pace to convey a wide variety of emotions. For example:
- Sadness: use a slow pace with low voice
- Excitement: use a higher pitch and quicker pace
- Scary: depending on the scene, you may use a shaky voice, with a quick pace.
Mem Fox (a well-known Australian children's book author) offers some excellent examples, on her website, of how to dramatise your story readings. She includes audio recordings which provide excellent examples. This is a link that is definitely worth taking time to go through.
Read Aloud - Principle Five: Character Voices
Children's books are focused around characters who experience all sorts of trouble and adventure. When reading stories aloud, dramatise the characters by reading their spoken words in different voices.
For example, when reading Farmer Blake and Sneaky Snake, the words of:
- Sneaky Snake can be read with a low, whispery, sneaky voice
- Farmer Blake can be bolder, louder and gruffer, and
- the hens could be spoken in a higher pitched voice.
A Final Word: Have Fun!
When you read stories with your child,
When you do this, your reading will captivate your child's attention and make the story come alive.
To extend your child's learning through the stories, read How to Use Open Ended Questions.
Return to the Articles List for other children's learning activities or children's book reviews.