This is one post in a 31 day series on read-aloud <— Click here to see all the posts.
There. I said it. Some people are truly awful at reading aloud. For example, a few years ago I took my kids to a local Barnes and Noble. The woman who did the kid’s story hour was a sweet, attentive, personable woman.
But she was an awful reader, and had no clue how to do read-aloud properly. She also couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket (a couple of songs were part of story hour). I wonder if the two things are connected? Not only was she constantly mispronouncing words, but she continually put emphasis on the wrong words and totally distorted the meaning. The poor woman was completely clueless of many cultural references as well, and botched those when they came up in books. It was truly terrible to hear, like fingernails down chalkboard. I had to stop going, lest my kids pick up on bad habits.
On the other hand, I’ve attended read-alouds that were wonderful, and that truly captured and held the children’s attention. And I’m pretty darn good at reading aloud myself too!
Here are my best tips for how not to suck at read-aloud.
Don’t Read in a Monotone
Please. Unless your goal is to put the child to sleep, put some enthusiasm and feeling into the reading. When you sing a song, your voice goes up AND down along with the notes. Do the same when reading aloud.
I’ve noticed that for some men especially, they think they have proper emphasis when they occasionally drop their voice and bring it back up to their normal reading “key”. That’s not right. Your voice should go up AND down in tone. In addition, some readers will bring their voice up and down at regular intervals, no matter what’s going on in the sentence. And that’s annoying too, because it’s irrelevant. The emphasis should MAKE SENSE, not be arbitrary.
Read Phrases, Not Words
Have you ever had to suffer through a long public reading in which.the.speaker.read.words.instead.of.phrases? It’s as if every word is punctuated by a period. It’s torture.
Typically this is a sign of nervousness, or poor education. When you read aloud, it’s a good idea to ask other people who are good readers and speakers for their honest feedback.
Reading ahead in advance of the read-aloud session with your child is very important! Familiarizing yourself with the plot and dialogue ahead of time means that you can really “bring it”, and not make silly mistakes that will cause the listener to lose the flow of the story. Reading ahead is also important if you’re uncertain as to the content of the book. It may be too mature for your child, or just downright inappropriate. You don’t want to be caught unawares and have to backtrack.
Don’t Be Boring
Some of my favorite books to read are those set in England, because I do a pretty good British accent. It’s so much fun to speak with a cockney accent when reading Martha and Colin’s lines from The Secret Garden, for instance. If you’re not great at accents, try perusing YouTube videos. For instance, you can search “How to do an English accent” and come up with this one. When I read Madeline to my girls, I sound like this. Et voila! You can do the same for any accent you want, from Irish to Indian. It’s fun!
Don’t forget to give a different voice to each character in the reading. Not only does this make the reading more fun and engaging, it also helps the child understand who’s speaking, and if you do the different voices, you can drop the “she said/he said” after every line of dialogue, because the child will understand who’s speaking. (Reading that aloud over and over gets old.)
What do you think? What things do you think makes someone a great reader?