Reading aloud can feel intimidating, whether you’re doing it with a classroom, a single child, or a library group. There’s no doubt reading aloud to kids helps them develop early literacy skills, inspire a lifelong love of reading, and prepare them for a successful future beyond school. However, it’s easy to wonder how much your audience is absorbing. Do they get more out of it than just “fun”? What read-aloud tips can you use to get the most out of your storytime?
Read-Aloud Tips That Fit Your Routine
With a few simple techniques, your read-alouds can go from enjoyable moments of togetherness to compelling learning opportunities. These things might already be part of your routine without you knowing it. Pair these read-aloud tips with Novel Effect, and you’re sure to win their full attention.
Judge the Cover
Ask a few questions before reading aloud. Introduce a theme and ask little learners what they already know about it. Let kids share what they already know about colors when you read Mixed: A Colorful Story. Ask them to identify the colors in the room.
Take a moment to read the title. Let them tell you what they think the story is about. Children can identify characters on the cover, talk about colors, and share theories. You might need to model your own observations and predictions to help them think.
Take Your Time
The staff librarian at Novel Effect said the biggest lesson she learned from leading storytimes at her public library was to slow down.
By reading slower than what feels natural, you’re giving your young audience a chance to absorb the info. Along with slowing down the read-aloud pace, slow down the questions too.
Typical brief pauses don’t work for little learners. It may feel awkward at first, but give them at least 15 seconds to process. You’ll see an increase in engagement once you’ve gotten in the habit.
Go Beyond Pictures
When reading, pay attention to all aspects of the book. The main course of a picture book is the illustrations and the text. There are also other fun features in picture books that make reading aloud more fun.
Picture books often have endpapers. These pages are full of illustrations that hint at a character or an event in the story. The endpapers of nonfiction books usually include extra facts about the time period, historical figures, or the topic. Critical thinking and background knowledge are developed through endpapers.
Another fun place to explore in picture books are gutters. This is the part of the book where it’s bound, and it’s full of comprehension opportunities. Take the time to analyze the images on full page spreads. Use the left and right sides of the page to help kids think about what they’re learning about the characters. What else is being communicated? Maybe characters are reaching out to one another, or being pushed apart.
Take Time for Concepts
Stopping in the middle of the plot might seem unnecessary or distracting. It won’t matter to your audience. For concepts to stick, repetition is key. That’s why so many picture and board books use it.
Focus on concepts like color identification, counting shapes, animals, matching, etc. Spending time on this increases engagement. Your Novel Effect app makes pausing easy. Whenever you read a book with Novel Effect, you can pause the soundscape and resume right where you left off!
There are lots of books that invite readers to pause and engage. Don’t be afraid to create your own educational moments when it’s unclear. Count all the corners of the trapezoid, ask what color the flamingo is, what sound a duck makes, or count the apples. It seems so simple, but these opportunities help solidify concepts and invite kids to observe beyond the text.
What's Your Favorite?
Keep storytime playful after reading. Let kids pick their favorite page, or flip through the book and let them recall a funny moment or a beautiful illustration. They’ll happily share! Prepare to be blown away by the depth of their answers when you ask them what makes something their favorite.
Your storytime friends will also empathize with the characters, critique the artwork, and draw their own conclusions. The moments of open-ended inquiry prove that giving kids a chance to share their own meaningful moments is a great way to immerse them in the book and develop critical thinking skills.
Supplement With Song
With Novel Effect, your audience is already getting an immersive experience with music, voice-over, and sound effects. Carry that over after reading with using songs, rhymes, dances, and fingerplays that correspond with the central themes of your story. So stand up, get those wiggles out!
If you’re short on ideas, a fantastic resource is Jbrary. Their blog and Youtube channel offer easy-to-follow tutorials to a wide variety of supplemental songs and rhymes. Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire Truck is an especially big hit with my storytime groups.
There are also ready-made playlists on streaming services like Spotify that offer interactive songs. So even if you’re not up for belting a tune out yourself, you can still take advantage of music. Two favorites are Slippery Fish by Amy Liz and Jumping and Counting by Jim Gill.
Find Your Groove
It might feel awkward to use some of these techniques. It’s possible that they won’t click with your audience or your age group right away. Practice makes new skills feel natural. Finding what works for you is important. Discover what makes read-alouds work for your kids and you’ll create a memorable, educational experience.