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The Art of Reading Aloud

Part 2

“The fire of literacy if created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud – it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”

– Mem Fox, Reading Magic: How your child can learn to read before school – and other read-aloud miracles

Ready to read

If your child is one who likes routines or time to focus there are many ways to let them know that storytime is approaching apart from having it marked on a clock.  Think about

  • lighting a special candle or soft-glow lamp
  • inviting your child to collect their teddy or special friend to share the story with them
  • having the child count backwards slowly to calm their breathing and focus on this special time
  • playing some special music, starting the story as the last note plays

Have a selection of stories – favourites, familiars and first-reads – and let the child choose.  If it’s one that has been shared before talk about what they remember; if it’s a new one talk about the cover and the title and what the story might be about to focus their mind and expectations.

 Reading aloud

Those who read aloud well are able to draw in their audience with just their voice, their eye contact and their enthusiasm creating a world that is just the story, the child and the reader. If you don’t feel comfortable in doing this try some of these suggestions…

  • Watch children’s television shows like Play School that have stories read aloud and watch what the actors do. Listen to the ups and downs of the voice, the speed and the pauses, and then duplicate this with the same story with your child.
  • Choose a story that you can ’hear’ yourself reading and practise it in front of a mirror.  Do it several times so its patterns and rhythms become familiar.
  • Use the author’s clues to modify your voice, speed up, slow down, pause dramatically, whisper or shout.  Lose your inhibitions – this is just between you and your child.
  • Practise the first sentence so you hook your little one immediately.  Think of it as the curtains rising on a stage performance. Similarly, practise the last line so that the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, a farewell which breaks the contact between story, listener and reader.
  • Once the words are working for you, consider how you can use your body language to convey the emotions and actions in the story - it’s all part of the performance that your child will mimic as they engage in pre-reading behaviour without you.
  • Before you start, talk about the story and others like it that you’ve read together before, setting the scene, focusing attention and building anticipation for what is to come. Stop and explore and explain as you read so it becomes an interactive activity and your child learns to really engage with both words and pictures.
  • Enjoy yourself and your child will too.

The more you read, the better you will get – but always remember this is about building a bond with your child, not a formal reading lesson, so don’t be too serious and take time to just delight in each other’s company. You and your child will build a secret world that just the two of you share.

Reading aloud doesn’t have to stop when your child is an independent reader – it’s something that can be enjoyed together for many years.

Remember, whenever you are reading aloud to your child you are conveying so much more than just the words on the page.  You are setting them up for enjoying the written word for life.


And if you do it well enough, you don’t even need pictures!

Barbara Braxton

Teacher Librarian

M.Ed.(TL), M.App.Sci.(TL), M.I.S. (Children's Services)