World Read Aloud Day is coming soon – it's the first Wednesday in March. It's a perfect time to celebrate the love of reading with our children. Most of us know it's important to read aloud daily to kids. But sometimes we wonder if we're doing it the right way. I've read aloud to children for too many years to count, and I can almost guarantee there is no wrong way! But here are some tips on what I aim for in a read-aloud.
I use facial expressions, particularly my eyes, and engage my audience with them when I read aloud. A child's gaze will swing from the illustration to me, back and forward. My dramatization, my expressions and voices, will all contribute to his enjoyment of the story.
I look for clues from the text and illustrations when I choose a voice for each character. I sadly admit to forgetting or swapping voices during a reading, and do I ever hear about it from the kids who are listening! Fortunately, experience and concentration have improved my skill. It's not necessary to have voices for book characters, but I think they're fun. They also help children to recognize dialogue within a text.
Racing through a story was often a real temptation for me as a young mum, especially if I was tired, or it was the 43rd time I'd read that book aloud. I believe it's crucial to allow children time to reflect a little about each page. If you're reading a picture book with complex illustrations, or a book that's new to your audience and not an old favorite, it's even more important. If I'm nervous, I notice I tend to speed up, so I always take a deep breath and consciously slow my reading speed down.
I enjoy adding props to my read-aloud performance. I've worn flippers and goggles for stories about the sea, pajamas for bedtime books, and silly hats just because I'm silly. Sometimes I have a puppet or toy to help me read. Sometimes I bring in an interesting box that contains something related to the book's subject matter. Often we'll play a guessing game about what's in the box. Later, we'll pass around the contents, observe and discuss it. Props are just my way of adding a bit more fun to reading aloud, maybe giving some kids a focus, or providing a way-in for kinesthetic learners.
Some children find it difficult to sit still for a story. Giving them something to do while you read might help them to be more comfortable. Maybe kids can play quietly and listen, or build and listen, or row a box boat and listen. They are still listening to the story and absorbing it, even if their eyes are focused out to sea!
As well as building in time for reflection about each page, I make time after a read-aloud for kids to reflect on the whole story. Children in my Storytime at the Library sessions love to find connections in the story to their own lives, or wonder aloud about something in the book. I sometimes ask them questions about what we read, and we remind ourselves of other similar books or songs or movies. After the story, we might also participate in a little activity linked to the story, such as acting out a scene, singing a song, or making a picture.
Every day should be read aloud day, but World Read Aloud Day is a reminder of that. I love that as an adult I get to see children's eyes light up over a story, and witness their joy and excitement. Even more, I love the idea that all over the world, others are reading aloud to the children they care for. However we celebrate, so long as the emphasis is on sharing great books with kids, everyone is a winner!
Do you love to read aloud? What tips do you have for other parents? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.