Like most activities, reading aloud with children takes practice. The good news is that we improve the more we practice, and the children and us can have fun even if we are not experts. For example, you can have a fun game of badminton with children, even if none of us play at the level of Lin Dan.
Here is a checklist that I think about as I’m preparing to read aloud and as I’m reading aloud.
- Choose appropriate books. What is appropriate varies according to which children we are reading with and what the situation is. The good news is that any books can be facilitate a successful read aloud session, if it matches the children situation. Points to think about when choosing books nclude: a. with your help, is the book within children’s comprehension range? b. is the book in areas of interest to the children? c. what potential discussion points can you raise based on the book?
- Set the scene. Provide background information that aids children’s comprehension and sparks their interest.
- Give the book’s title and author (and the illustrator if there is one). The hope is that children will want you to reread what is read to them, or maybe read the book on their own. To do this, they need to know the book’s title. Also, we hope that children will request more books by the same authors. Additionally, talking about authors lets children know that “books don’t grow on trees.” Maybe the children will later want to write their own books.
- Read with feeling and variety. We do not need to be professional actors to read aloud, but we can learn from actors. For example, some voice variation can make read aloud sessions more enjoyable for children and for us, as well as boosting children’ comprehension. For instance, we might want to change our tone to communicate surprise or happiness. Another tactic we can learn from actors is the use of paralanguage to aid communication, such as facial expressions and gestures.
- Be ready to summarize slow parts and paraphrase difficult words. While some parts of a text have the power to increase children’ engagement with a text, other parts may leave the children bored. We need not read aloud the text word-for-word. Instead, we can skip or summarise parts which might decrease children’s engagement. Another change we can make to the books we read aloud involves paraphrasing words. In the case of uncommon words that children are unlikely to encounter again in the near future, it might be best to use more common words to paraphrase their lower frequency counterparts. For example, we could paraphrase serendipity by saying good luck instead.
- Stop at interesting places to invite children’s participation, such as emotional responses, questions, connections to life, comments, reflections. Read aloud sessions should not be monologues by us. Instead, we should use all the tools we can to draw children into dialogues about what is being read.
- Plan and practice first. In order to implement tips 2-6 above, we need to spend time planning and practicing.
- Last but not least, part of the purpose for reading aloud is to be a salesperson for reading. To achieve this purpose, we need to show that we enjoy reading. Fortunately, showing enjoyment is usually easy because it is fun to interact with children about books, and it is fun to pretend to be actors.
Summary: Reading aloud with children can be enjoyable, valuable activity. For the best experience for the children, it is best to consider the checklist described here.