Feb 5th was World Read-Aloud Day. Started in 2010 by the literacy website, LitWorld, this day has become immensely popular over the last few years. In fact, 2020 saw the day become the top trending hashtag on twitter with millions of people conducting read-alouds in over 170 countries. 

Is It Important To Read Aloud To Your Kids?

The obvious answer – Yes! (If you already agree and are looking for tips, click here!) Reading aloud to your kids has a myriad of benefits. If children are read aloud to right from the beginning (yes, even before they can understand what you’re saying) they perform better in school, have a richer vocabulary and are much more likely to start reading early. And if that’s not enough, the benefits of spending one-on-one time with your child is invaluable!

Read my colleague’s account of how his 6-year-old daughter is currently reading chapter books. A big part of it was the fact that he and his wife read to her from picture books since she was just a year old.

Why You Should Read Aloud To Your Students

Read-alouds have become immensely popular with parents over the last few years. But what about in schools?

Reading to your students can help them immensely and this activity should not just be left to the parents. Regardless of the grade you teach, there are multiple benefits of reading to your class!

It will help them fall in love with reading

If you’re a teacher in India, the chances of your students being bilingual are pretty high. A lot of them might not be comfortable reading in English. One way you can get past this barrier is to conduct regular read-aloud sessions with your class. You will notice the most reluctant students become active participants! 

When students read at a level much lower than their recommended ages, it could be a huge reason as to why they don’t want to read for fun. Reading books that interest them is hard, but reading simpler books is probably boring! This difference between reading age and interest age could be a massive demotivating factor. 

How do you solve this? Do the work for them! Read-alouds will introduce your kids to different books and genres that they won’t pick up by themselves.  They will be exposed to a richer vocabulary and will associate the habit of reading with the fun read-aloud sessions.

The important thing to keep in mind is that these sessions should be focused on helping your students fall in love with stories and storybooks, NOT their reading skills. If you do decide to make your children read aloud to their friends, make sure you tell them in advance, so they are not put on the spot. Treat it as a prize and not a punishment, and you will have more students volunteering to read!

It will demonstrate proper reading etiquette

Storytelling showing children a picture book in a read-aloud session

When your students watch you read, they will subconsciously understand proper reading etiquette. When they hear you read out loud, they will understand the right places to pause in a sentence and the difference between a period and a comma. They will also see the way you handle a book – carefully turning the pages, not bending the spine, etc. – and emulate the same in the future.

If you read with different voices (see below for tips and tricks!), the children will associate difficult words with the right intonation and thereby make learning those words easier. 

It will improve their attention span

A captivating read-aloud will force your students to focus on you for the duration of the story. Students tend to get distracted quite easily. If you make them read by themselves, it is likely that their attention will start to wander almost immediately. But just like storytelling, a read-aloud session can do wonders for their attention span. But take it slow. Gradually increase the length of your stories until they are able to sit through at least a 20-minute session.

It will improve their listening and comprehension skills

One of the more obvious benefits of reading aloud to your students is that it greatly improves their listening skills. They will eventually learn to not interrupt you while you’re reading, and this behaviour will carry forward in their daily conversations. One way to limit the number of interruptions is to ask questions while reading, in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story. 

Asking questions about the important plot points is a great way for students to improve their comprehension skills as well as assess how much they have understood in the story. You can also ask them to predict what happens next. This allows them to exercise their imagination and be more involved in the story.

read-alouds in a classroom with a smartboard

How To Improve Your Read-Aloud Skills

Just like storytelling, read-alouds get better with practice. The advantage that reading aloud has over storytelling is that you don’t have to know the story by heart. Read through it once before the session so you’re comfortable with the text. But don’t substitute storytelling sessions for read-alouds. Do both!

Voice modulation

Voice modulation is the most important aspect of a good read-aloud session. Reading in a monotone voice will kill even a great story. Although it sounds daunting, it’s not that difficult! Prepare 2-3 generic voices (child, old man, witch, etc.) and use them across all your stories. 

Simply modifying the tone to show the emotion of the words can sometimes be more than enough. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. All you need to do is differentiate between two voices – something as simple as talking faster / louder or slower / softer. For example, if you’re telling the story of the tortoise and the hare, all you need to do is to speak in a low, slow voice for the tortoise and use a quick, high voice for the rabbit. That’s it!

Use music

Any storytelling can be made better with a bit of music! All master storytellers use some form of music to enhance their storytelling. You don’t have to know how to play an instrument (although that would be great) or be an accomplished singer/songwriter. A small rhyme or body percussion will take a session to the next level. You can teach your kids the song or movements in advance, so they can join in without breaking the rhythm of the story. 

Take your time

Don’t rush the story! You don’t have to finish the entire story in one sitting. You need to allow the child to completely absorb the words you’re saying, and form mental pictures before you move on to the next sentence. 

In fact, stopping at a hook point (a plot twist or a suspenseful event in the middle of the story) will make your children enthusiastically look forward to the next session. So, slow it down, give appropriate pauses and keep your children at the edge of their seats.

Pick stories that you love

If you don’t genuinely love the story that you’re reading, it will show! Your students will be able to sense it and as a result, they might be less interested in the story. On the other hand, if you love a story as much as you want your kids to love it, the enthusiasm will spread. 

If you need help picking awesome storybooks to read from, check out our Best of Indian Children’s Writing Awards List, for great storytelling books for ages 3 – 10. 

Modify the story to suit your audience

While reading to your group, keep an eye on your students’ expressions and body language. If you find that they’re looking confused, then simplify rephrase the text in simpler language and ask pointed questions to test their understanding. 

Pro tip – don’t break character when you do this! If you’re using voice modulation, ask them questions in the same voice. The kids will love it.

Conclusion

Finally, just have fun! Even if reading aloud with all the extra voices and acting doesn’t come naturally to you, that will not matter to your students. They will fondly remember the cozy time they spent huddled around their favourite teacher, listening to some amazing stories. If your goal is to get your students to fall in love with reading, then add read-alouds as a regular part of your week. Trust me, your students will thank you later.

Some of the information mentioned in this post is from Read-Alouds Revival’s podcasts, where there’s a bunch of amazing resources about everything to do with reading aloud. LitWorld also has some resources to help you celebrate World Read-Aloud Day next year. If you’re still looking for inspiration, check out this article that lists out the best read-alouds in YouTube.

If you still need more help, feel free to reach out to us! Multistory conducts teacher workshops which help teachers step out of their comfort zones and find the storyteller hidden within them. Email us at contact@multistory.in for more information.

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