Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Read Aloud by Mem Fox

In honor of Mem Fox's visit to the Nashville Public Library Tuesday evening, today's All Grown Up post is from the first chapter of her book Reading Magic. You can hear her read this excerpt and more on her website.
Do It Like This
 Section 1
An American father once said to me: "So how do you do this read aloud thing?" I was almost too taken aback to answer. Wasn’t it obvious? Then I realised it wouldn’t be obvious if he hadn’t been read aloud to as a child. I wanted to say: "Well, you know—find a book, get a child, and sit down and read the book to the child," but it seemed so simple that I was too embarrassed to say it.
When I see a read aloud session in my mind’s eye, there’s either an adult sitting in a big old chair or on a sofa, with a child on the adult’s lap or snuggled up close, sharing a book, or an adult sitting or lying on a bed with the child tucked up, wide eyed, as stories are being read. And the experience is always fantastic.
The more expressively we read, the more fantastic the experience will be. The more our kids love books, the more they’ll pretend to read them, and the more they pretend to read, the more quickly they’ll learn to read. So reading aloud is not quite enough—we need to read aloud well.

When we read the story we are usually familiar with it. We should like it. And naturally we’ll maintain our enthusiasm for it even if we’ve read it five thousand times. As we read the story we need to remain aware of our body position, our eyes and their expression, our eye-contact with the child or children, our vocal variety, and our general facial animation.

There’s no exact right way of reading aloud, other than to try to be as expressive as possible. Each of us will have our own special way of reading a story. For instance when I read the beginning of Koala Lou, my voice swings up and down in the same tune, the same s-l-o-w song, every time:
There was once a baby koala, so soft and round that a–l–l who saw her loved her. Her name was Ko–ala Lou.

The ups and downs of our voices and our pauses and points of emphasis are like music, literally, to the ears of young children, and they love music. Simple tunes also make anything easier to remember, so it’s useful to read a book in exactly the same way every time, and to read the same book over and over again. The more quickly children pick up the "tune" of the words, the more they’ll remember the words and the more quickly they’ll have fun trying to ‘read’ the story themselves, with the same expression as we do.

(Here's one of my posts about choosing read aloud books for children with autism)

1 comment:

  1. Bravo! I couldn't agree more. I'm a mom who loves to read aloud. I've been a substitute librarian for our local school district since my son entered school. When I read to the kids I like to say that I 'perform' the books. And I don't know who enjoys it more -- the kids or me. Truly, you must be familiar with it, act it out and vary the pace and intonations. Thanks for the well-worded how-to!