How to Read Aloud to Kids

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

Reading
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Kids of all ages love to be read to.

I read occasionally to my high school students, who never once complained. I hammed it up through Edgar Allan Poe, chapters from To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies. I stormed around the room during Macbeth, and mooned over Romeo and Juliet. Many of my “reluctant readers” were motivated to pick up the books on their own for the next chapters and scenes. I’d do anything to get and keep their attention!

Here are some things I’ve learned to keep in mind when I’m reading aloud to kids ─ individually or in groups, from kindergartners to sophomores.

 

Be prepared.

It’s always good to have a general knowledge of what you’re reading. You don’t have to be an expert, but it helps when you don’t stumble over words or emphasize the wrong phrases. This is particularly true if the kids are reading along with you, so they can see and hear the words come to life. Slow down. Reading aloud is just a little slower than conversation.

 

Play the part.

Making the “words come to life” requires you to leave behind your adult shyness and re-engage with your childhood imagination. When the story demands it, let your voice reflect emotions – scary, funny, surprising, awed, sad, angry, silly, loud, whispering, threatening, brave. They’ll follow along.

 

Challenge them before reading.

Get them ready by giving them something to listen or watch for. “I love the pictures in this book. At the end, we’ll vote for our favorites, and then I’ll tell you which one is my favorite.” Or prepare them for unfamiliar words ahead of time, so they won’t be lost. Have a short, informal chat ahead of time to get them ready for the subject of the story.

 

Chat with them after reading.

After the reading, stay quiet for a few seconds to let them think and return to the present. It’s like waking up after a pleasant dream. Give them a few moments. Then talk about the story, giving them plenty of time to think, ask questions, express opinions, and respond to your comments. Listen carefully, respect their points of view, and respond to their comments.

 

Follow up.

If the kids really liked the story, there are a few things you can do to encourage interest and further reading. Write letters ─ individually or as a group ─ to the author or illustrator. Ask a school or local librarian to stock up on other titles by the same author.

 

Don’t forget to let your children read aloud to you, too. They will love to show off, and you can see how well they’re learning.

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