Tips for reading aloud to a child

Published on: 14 December 2022

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, creators of Supertato, I Spy Island and Egg, and many other hilarious picture books, share their thoughts on reading aloud to children.

Hello, Paul here, co-creator of Supertato. In our house, everything speaks. We often have long and meaningful conversations with the toaster or Betty the dog, who chat back in their deadpan voices. I think that at heart we are frustrated actors having to satisfy ourselves with the role of a lamp or a reluctant printer. Our daughter has had to live with this since day one and in fact, until she could speak for herself, was often a victim of the deadpan voice. 

The pinnacle of all this role-play was of course bedtime story reading. This was when we finally got our script and the stage on which to perform. And boy did we go for it, high voices, low voices, silly, deadpan and downright weird voices. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Over the years we’ve heard books read in all manner of different ways. One of our family friends reads picture books like he’s reading a last will and testament but his children still love it; still snuggle up and go to bed happy. The key is to trust the author and the illustrator. They have done the work of telling the story, all you have to do is deliver it your own way. 

Now over to Sue with some simple tips that you might find useful:

Cosy up  

Some of my favourite memories with our daughter involve snuggling up in her bunk bed after a busy day and sharing a book. Leaving reality at the door, being safe and warm and going off on wonderful adventures together.

Don’t do it alone, Get them to join in!  

Even if the child is not yet able to read perhaps there is a repeating refrain in the story that you can teach them.

Funny voices?

If it feels right and you’re up for it – go for it!

Make it pacey

Selecting an exciting story with a fast pace can really give drama to your reading.

Try a rhyming book 

I’ve always found that a quality rhyming book can be much easier to read as the text pulls you along with it. 

Empathise with the characters 

Reading stories is a great way to help your child build empathy skills. Imagining what it feels like to be a lonely sock, a crime-fighting potato or a not-very-scary pumpkin (for example) will help them to see the world through different eyes.

Spotting details in the pictures 

The fun we’ve had poring over fabulous illustrations! Sometimes finding hidden details that tell us even more about the story.

Point out fabulous facts 

It doesn’t have to be a storybook, non-fiction can be just as much fun.

Reading time is anytime 

Don’t get me wrong, I love bedtime stories but books are SO portable and can be great when out and about. Picnics, waiting rooms, buses, you can have an adventure whereever you are.