Are there techniques I need to know for reading aloud to kids?
Our previous post dealt with providing storytelling or reading experiences for young children. Once children get to ages 5 – 12, they love to hear fairy tales, mysteries, and classics. Cinderella, Snow White, the Hardy Boys series, the Nancy Drew mystery series, The Secret Garden, The Boxcar Children series, and the Goosebumps stories are all great books to interest and to create curiosity in children.
Children learn to listen, think, and to see the world as it is. Fairy tales show pain, fear, and courage. They teach the child that good triumphs, and that they need to go out there and face the world with courage, like Jack (and the beanstalk), like Colin (in his secret garden), and like Hansel and Gretel.
Listening to stories sometimes even inspires the children to write their own. So, not only are we increasing the child’s vocabulary and interesting him/her in reading, but we provide a framework where the children feel comfortable writing creatively.
All this can happen IF we start the children listening to stories and books for pleasure, every day, beginning when they are very young.
Sometimes, children at home may not want to listen to a story. That’s OK. Don’t push or force him/her to sit and listen. Each day offer a story, showing the book’s cover or pictures inside. Eventually, the child will want to listen. It’s a positive habit, needing to be developed.
22 Techniques of Reading Aloud
- Read daily. Ten minutes each day is better than ½ hour once a week. Establish a “story time” routine.
- Encourage parents to read to the child before bedtime so a home reading routine is established.
- Remember: the art of listening is a learned skill. It must be taught and cultivated gradually. It doesn’t happen overnight.
- Books with pictures can be read to any age group. Children 9 – 14 years old, however, enjoy chapter books, novels, and longer stories.
- If you start a book, it’s your responsibility to continue it. Don’t leave the class hanging for 3 or 4 days between chapters, expecting their interest to be sustained. Read every day!
- It’s OK to occasionally read above the child’s vocabulary level to challenge their minds.
- There’s nothing wrong with shortening or eliminating long, descriptive passages. Feel free to skip over such sections in a story.
- Always pre-read the book so you’ll know its theme and message.
- Allow students a few minutes to settle down and adjust their feet and minds to the story. If it is a chapter book, ask the students if they remember where you left off and what was happening in the story…. Mood is an important factor in listening.
- An authoritarian, “Now sit down! Be quiet! Sit up straight! Pay attention!” is not conducive to a receptive audience. Much better is, “OK, boys and girls. Relax, get comfortable. You can put your heads down if you want.” Then they will WANT to listen!
- If you’re reading a picture book, make sure all the children can see the pictures. Sit in a circle, or hold up the book so all can see.
- Even 8th or 9th graders enjoy being read to from an interesting chapter book, such as “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, or “Parvana’s Journey”, by Deborah Ellis, or tales from Greek Mythology.
- Allow time for class discussion of the story, BUT don’t turn discussions into quizzes. This is reading for enjoyment time...not reading instruction time, nor oral quiz time.
- Use expression when reading aloud. If possible, change your tone of voice to fit the character speaking.
- The most common mistake in reading aloud is reading too fast. Read slowly enough so children can draw mental pictures of what you are reading.
- Before reading, tell students about the author so they’ll know that a real, live person wrote the story. Bring the author to life – helping students know about a person, with his/her own life’s experiences, who wrote the book. What motivated or interested the author to write his/her book?
- Highly active children, who don’t like to sit listening to reading can be relaxed by allowing them to have a piece of paper, crayons, or a pencil, so they can draw and keep their hands busy while they’re listening.
- Don’t read stories that you don’t enjoy yourself.
- Don’t keep reading a book once you see that it was not a good choice. Admit to the students that it appears “boring”, and you’ll find them a better book. This will help children see that it’s OK to have preferences.
- Don’t be unnerved by questions. Children will ask questions. Be patient. Don’t rush your answers. Don’t put them off. Foster the child’s curiosity with patient answers. Then resume reading.
- Don’t threaten: “If you aren’t quiet, I will not read to you today!”. As soon students see that you’ve turned the book into a weapon of control, they’ll change their attitude about books from positive to negative.
- Let children see you read in your free time. Be a positive role model.