Not everyone is great at story telling. If you are like me then you probably have never had any drama lessons and the last time you read aloud was when you were ten years of age. However reading to your child is important. It is so important that it is a big factor in your child’s development of literacy skills.
It took me awhile to get good at reading to my daughter. Looking back I was a little bit hopeless to begin with but have gotten a lot better. Lucky for me I started reading to her when she was a newborn so my rusty story telling skills had an opportunity to improve before she developed the ability to walk away from a boring story telling session.
Here’s a list I’ve compiled of simple story telling techniques that I’ve found useful when reading aloud to my daughter.
1. Create a story telling atmosphere
Firstly, ensure the child is comfortable and ready to hear the story. If your child is still playing with a toy, or distracted you may find it harder to maintain their attention for the whole book.
Involving the child in the decision making process also helps to focus their attention to the task at hand. “It’s time to read a book now. Should we read ‘Where is the green sheep?’”. Otherwise if you are introducing a new book you could say “I think we should read …….. tonight!”
Sometimes I give my daughter a choice of two titles – so once the decision becomes her own, she is more attentive and willing to listen.
2. Win the audience with the first line
Capture your audience from the very beginning. Even before I begin to read to my daughter I start to create the desired atmosphere for my first line. With the closed book in front of us, I read the title of the book and open each page slowly until I come to the first line.
When I begin to read I make sure that I put in extra effort on the first line. Usually I begin with either a hushed voice with a slow pace or a louder voice at a faster pace before going back to my normal reading voice for a particular book.
3. Read books with great rhyme, rhythm and pace
The best kids books stand out as they have amazingly simple rhyme, rhythm and pace that make them so enjoyable for young children. When selecting a book to read take note of the sentence length, the rhyming structure used and think about how you vary the volume of your voice and the pace of your speech to match the story. Slow your voice down when you read out dialog. Quicken your pace when you describe actions.
Great children’s books make this easy for you. Authors such as Eric Carle, Dr Seuss, Pamela Allen and Mem Fox have superbly written books that I would highly recommend.
4. Tell the story with FEELING!
Make sure you read to your children with feeling and passion! Convey the mood and feelings of characters by using voice, eyes, face and arms. Your voice can be loud, soft, high, low, fast or slow. Use pauses and silences to increase tension. Use your eyes, face and arms to convey happiness, sadness, excitement and fear.
5. Play Games with the book
Have fun when you read to your children by playing games with the books.
Talk about the story / illustrations – talk about illustrations by pointing out different parts of the drawing or things that are happening on the page, parts of the story
Play word games – teach your children to recognise different words by sight. Get your children to look for certain words repeated through the book.
‘Look here’s the word ‘happy’ can you see it anywhere else on this page? Yes that’s right! What about on the next page?’ Then you can advance this to ‘Happy starts with ‘h’. Can you find any other words that start with ‘h’?’
6. Involve the audience in the story!!!!
It is much more fun for your children when they to get to participate in the story telling experience. Not only is it more fun but it actually improves the ability for your children to remember. One remarkable statistic is that children remember 60% of what they do, 30% of what they see and 10% of what they hear.
You can involve your children by getting them to conduct gestures, sound effects or recite lines as you go through the story.
Gestures – encourage your children to use their hands, eyes, face, or feet. You can use your hands to clap, to creep, to show something going up or down. You can use your face and eyes to show a sad face, a happy face, to show surprise, anger or fear. Feet can stomp, run or thump.
Sounds Effects – you and your children can make noises of things or actions in the story that you read. Why not make a popping sound, or the sound of the wind or waves. You can make animal sounds, the noise of a car, truck, plane or a sneeze, cough, burp.
Reciting lines / words – get you children to participate in the telling of the story by completing the last word of the sentence or even reading entire sentences.
7. Slow down for the ending
It is great to slow things down as you come to the end of a story. It makes the story more satisfying for your children and make sure you follow your ending with a silent pause. In fact many children books are designed so that you slow down your delivery for the ending.
8. Watch a librarian conduct a reading class
Whenever I take my daughter to a reading session at the local library I end up coming away with some ideas on how I can improve my story telling techniques. It always amazes me how the librarians have the ability to keep a group of twenty pre-school kids engaged and interested for half an hour.