10 Tips on Reading Aloud

We have always used living books in our Charlotte Mason-based homeschooling.  Literature-based education requires a lot of reading aloud.  It takes effort, practice and skill to read aloud in a way that is engaging and entertaining.

Here are 3 lists of 10 tips on how to read aloud well ~20151210_180943

I absolutely love alliteration and when I researched this topic, I found Emily Guille-Marrett’s from Reading Fairy top tips on “How to read aloud well“.  She used P to begin each word in her list.  (I have added my own suggestions and points* to her list.)

  1. Purpose – Select a book that is written well and is suitable for being read aloud. Choose a book that features a character or a story your child can relate to. You must enjoy the book that you are reading  – your enthusiasm will be infectious!
  2. Preview – Read the story yourself first to know the story, characters, the vocabulary and style.  To read aloud well, it helps to read it yourself in advance.
  3. Prepare – When starting a new book, show your children the cover and illustration and describe the title and storyline. Tell them a little about the author and spend a few moments briefly telling them something about the story and characters.  When starting the next session, spend a moment with a quick recap of the previous reading.  Ask your children some leading questions such as, “What happened to …? How did our story end?” or begin with a short reminder of the last points of the earlier reading such as, “Remember last time …”
  4. Place – Choose a comfy couch to enjoy the read-aloud.  Allow children to snuggle close, or keep busy hands with quiet colouring-in or playdough or other hands-on activities while they listen.  Plan your reading aloud times and be consistent.
  5. Perform – Show enthusiasm! This is vital!  The key to successful read-aloud performance is to skim your eyes ahead to anticipate the story dialogue or action.  Then when you read aloud, read slowly.  This gives you time to change your voice for different characters, use accents,  use funny voices or pull different facial expressions,  even use appropriate movements,
  6. Projection, pitch, pace, pause and pose – Vary your voice with loud and soft, high and low, fast and slow.  Use pauses and silence for drama and impact.  My kids loved the suspense of cliff-hanger endings!
  7. Props and puppets – Kids love to participate.  They love interaction in read alouds!  Encourage them to make sounds effects such as animal noises, rumbling of thunder, clapping hands, adding hand movements or pretend to be the character.  This dynamic involvement makes a story unforgettable.  Encourage them to narrate the story after the reading using finger puppets, masks or hats which are quick and easy to make and use.   See the next point –
  8. *Presentations– Encourage active listening before you begin and tell your children that you require a detailed, accurate narration (telling-back) from your children when you have completed a paragraph, page or chapter.  Their narration should include the same style, vocabulary and detail used by the author.  This skill is a powerful teaching method.  Living books with narrations really teach!
  9. *Persevere –  Keep reading aloud to your children even when they can read for themselves.  Listening to read alouds required less concentration and skill to enjoy the story than reading to themselves and the intimacy and the dynamic of the performance of a read-aloud makes a book come alive.  Teens and even grown young adult graduate children still love read-alouds.  It is a family experience and not a school lesson.
  10. *Practice – Practice will make perfect, so keep practising.  You will be amazed by how your read-aloud skills develop as you keep going.

Here’s a summary of Anna of The Measured Mom’s  10 tips for reading aloud to kids of all ages.

  1. Start as soon as possible – even as babies, in the high chair or in the bath.
  2. Start with rhyming books – words and sounds that children love to hear over and over.
  3. Start simple and build to more complex books – begin with hardboard books, then go on to short picture books, more complicated picture storybooks, short chapter books,  funny stories, classic books, complex chapter books.
  4. Choose books that are appropriate developmentally – suitable for your child’s emotional and intellectual maturity.  Be aware of triggers or concepts that may alarm or frighten your children.
  5. Read them yourself first before reading aloud to your children.
  6. Do not be afraid to abandon a book that doesn’t suit or connect to your children or has content you are not comfortable sharing.  Don’t be afraid to skip parts of a book.  Replace bad language or skip any long boring passages,. Shorten sections when children are not interested.
  7. Follow through and be consistent.  Read regularly, read daily.
  8. Chose books that you enjoy reading aloud yourself.  You may not want to read books based on children’s movies or TV stories.  Chose quality books that you know is not fluff.
  9. Be interactive as you read.  Make your children part of the story.  Pause to ask their thoughts, opinions, consider what may happen, what a word means.
  10. Do not stop reading aloud when your children can read on their own.  It is important to keep reading because they can listen at a higher level than they can read.  It builds vocabulary,  teaches writing style, covers topics that teach and inform them.   High schoolers love good stories, fiction and non-fiction
  1. Preview the Book.
  2. Prepare a Comfy and Roomy Read-Aloud Area.
  3. Introduce the Book.
  4. Notice How You Hold the Book.
  5. Give It All You’ve Got!
  6. Involve Your Listeners.
  7. Help Children “See” the Story.
  8. Invite Children to Use Their Senses.
  9. Develop Ways to Respond to Questions
  10. Take Time for Discussion

There are so many videos and articles on how to read aloud well, but nothing replaces good old practice.  Just do it!   Read aloud often.  Read aloud dynamically and your children will love it and learn from it!

Do you have any read-aloud tips to share or problems you would like to discuss?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene
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When your child doesn’t want to read the suggested book?

In our Charlotte Mason homeschooling, we followed literary-based learning curriculums, learning through recommended lists of living books.

It is inevitable that not every recommended book in the curriculum will appeal to every child, and we have had our share of books that just didn’t “fit” some of us.

Young children and middle schoolers often have a preference for certain gender characters, and my young girls often groaned when I started another story featuring a young boy as the main character.

Some aspects of History don’t appeal. My younger teenagers did not enjoy political history section of their Footprints curriculum.  And although I insisted on their reading every book on the schedule, I realized that they did not connect with the narrative or the information shared through the story.  Because I related so emotionally to some of these stories, I expected that they would as well, and I was disappointed in their unfazed attitudes.  It took me a while to realize that it was a waste of time to insist on the reading when they were uninterested.

Some literary styles don’t appeal. Some children prefer action, others love descriptive passages, and others love dynamic dialogue.  By the time they reach junior high, my children had a very keen sense of good books and they quickly refused poorer literature that they called “schlock”.

There have been books that I absolutely dreaded reading.  The chapters were long and the narrative terribly tedious.  I even fell asleep while reading aloud!  I couldn’t manage to drag myself through the required reading every day.  Eventually, I admitted defeat and put aside the book and looked for alternative ways of covering the subject matter.

From several bad experiences, I learnt that it doesn’t help to plod and slog on through a book when a child or mom has disengaged. It is a complete waste of time. Rather look for different options.

Here are some ways to approach a roadblock book-block ~

  1. Put away the book and look for something similar at your local library.
  2. Find audiobooks but ensure that they are well narrated.
  3. Look for suitable children’s movies or DVDs, especially if you are covering a specific historical era.
  4. Make a curated YouTube video playlist of suitable, relevant videos on the subject or era.  (Always preview and block adverts if you can.)
  5. Find relevant newspaper and magazine articles.
  6. Look up Wikipedia for specific people, dates, events and situations etc.
  7. Find someone who lived through that experience and encourage your children to interview them.
  8. Visit a museum or workshop.
  9. Do a road trip and go on an outing to the actual place.
  10. Look for photos and letters and memoirs of the time, place or period.
  11. If all else fails, simply move on.

Don’t worry about the gaps. We all have them! Even folks studying for their master’s degrees in a subject don’t know everything about their field of study!

Ditch the guilt and look for what your child is really fascinated by and interested in and follow their spark with food that flames their passion. This is what works!

Blessings as you find what works, Nadene