Writer in Residence Michelle Robinson shares some top tips for sharing stories together!

Published on: 22 October 2023

Our Writer in Residence Michelle Robinson shares some top tips for sharing stories together!

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Hi, I'm Michelle Robinson, and I'm here to share some tips for making reading fun with BookTrust. So the one thing I would say to start with is sometimes I think reading aloud can feel like a bit of a challenge. Like it's something that we have to do really well or that we have to get just right. It's not.

It should be relaxing, it should be fun. So grab a cup of tea, get somewhere comfortable with the kids, make sure you're all comfy and ready to sit down and relax for five, ten, fifteen minutes, whatever it might be. Put your phone aside just for that time and get ready to enjoy yourselves together. So I've got some books today that I'm going to use to maybe demonstrate some of the things. I'm going to pick them at random and hope they kind of do the right job.

So tip number one is going to be this. If you are reading with a particularly mischievous child or a bunch of children, make your reading mischievous, make it the way they'd like it to be, the way they like to do things. If you have a particularly active child or children, think about making your reading particularly active. There's no reason why you have to sit still for reading.

You can ask mischievous things, do mischievous things. So you might say, for instance, let's have a look. So here's a sausage. And he's jumped out of the pan. Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop. Can you hop, hop, hop, hop, hop like a sausage? So if I don't want to sit still and that's what is kind of stopping them, having fun reading, get them up on their feet, but get them doing it in a way that ties in to the book.

So if they've done that hopping, then you might want to hop as well. Why not? You can say, Well, let's see what he does next. We've done some hopping. Maybe there's something else he does. Oh, well, let's have a look. Oh, yes, This one's doing a roly poly somersault. Maybe you can do a roly poly somersault. And don't be afraid to do a roly poly somersault in the library. It's fine.

Ten Fat Sausages

So another thing that I really like to do is ask questions. So you can ask questions about absolutely anything in absolutely any book. Let's have a look at this one. So it's cool to ask questions right from the title. This is "How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth". Well, how would you wash woolly mammoth? Any ideas? This one's being washed in a bathtub.

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth

Could you really have a pet woolly mammoth? Why not? Because woolly mammoths are extinct, right? Well, this one isn't. How do you think he got in her bathtub? So you can just ask lots and lots of questions. And what it starts to do is it gets them intrigued and draws them in and makes them curious about what they want to find out.

So children are curious. Most of them are very curious. They want to know things. So another thing that I find really good, particularly with picture books, is picture book makers do use the page turns to build anticipation and makes you wonder what might happen next. So you can say, Let's kind of think here. The mammoth has run out of the book so you can say, Where do you think he's gone?

So don't turn the page, build the anticipation. Where do you think he's gone? If you were a woolly mammoth, where would you go? Well, how would you go? Kids love being asked what they think. We often don't stop and ask them what they think. We might ask them what they want for dinner or whether they made that dreadful mess on the couch. But we don't often ask them for their ideas, so ask them their ideas. It's fun and it gets them really involved in the storytelling. So yes, pointing and asking is good.

Now, my favourite tip, this is my number one, I think if I was going to put them in order, get it wrong. Kids love it when grown ups get things wrong.

So for instance, I might say so this book is full of dogs, that every single character in it is a dog. So I might point at it and say, Look at this cat. Isn't that a funny cat? I wonder what the cats in this book are going to do? And then children will kind of look at you doubtfully. So perhaps if you have a child who's attention is wandering, So you've said it's storytime. I'm going to sit nicely and read a book and they're trying to do something else. You can get it wrong. And that will very often draw them right in like a fish on a hook. So be silly and don't worry about it. So you might I might say, Oh, look, this lorry is the same colour as my jumper, isn't it?

And then you've got them, so just keep it up. It doesn't mean that you have to lose all dignity and look like a ninny. You can maybe just say, Oh dear, I've clearly gotten in a bit of a muddle today. I think I might need your help to read this one, don't you? Do you mind sitting with me and helping just in case I go wrong again?

And you can just be playful as you go wrong through that, through the story. So you might say, Oh, look, he's pushing away all the sand. And I'll say, That's not sand, it's snow, you know. So just, just muddling things on purpose and getting things wrong, it's really good fun. So, yeah, definitely try messing things up. It's a joy to do.

Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry

Another really important thing to do and particularly with more sensitive children, I think but really with everybody is to ask about feelings so you can look at a character's facial expressions, any character in any book, at any point, and you can look at their body language as well, of course, as well as reading the story. But you can look at them and say, how do you think they're feeling? And again, you can copy the facial expression so you can kind of act it out and you can copy their physical body language. You know, is this character looking excited and happy or were they looking maybe a little nervous and worried? And when you act it out, it really puts you in the story.

It kind of puts you in those character's shoes and kind of draws you in more. And when children can't actually read the words on the page that they relying on you to tell them the story and to explain what's going on. But reading the expressions and the body language and reading the feelings in the pictures is a really good way that they start to understand and learn how to read. It's all part of it.

So another thing you might be able to do is count things on pages. Here you go. It's like how many dinosaurs are there in this page? And would that be the same amount on the next page or would that be more or will that be less? You can maybe ask what colours you can see.

You could maybe count the words on a page and just start them thinking about the words that are on there as well. That's another fun thing to do. And again, copy the action so you might act like a dinosaur. So you might ask them what facts they know about a dinosaur or whether they've ever met a dinosaur. You can stop and do things like this, or you might want to sing a song while you play.

So maybe you know a song about a dinosaur, or maybe, you know a song about stomping or things like that. You can just make things up heads, shoulders, teeth and tails. You know, you can just play with the story and what's in it. And let's think what else might be fun to do. And yes, count, ask, turn pages, get them turning the pages and maybe think about doing voices.

1, 2, 3 Do the Dinosaur

So what would this cookie sound like? You might not like to read with voices, doing voices for characters. Some people do. Some people love it. Some people find it really uncomfortable. But you could ask your children, ask the child what they think that character's voice might be like. It's just fun. You don't necessarily solely have to read in that voice, but you could just say, I think he might sound a little bit like this and just be silly and playful.

It also breaks the story up when you can do some different noises and make some different funny sounds around something. So you can look at the pictures. So here he's putting on talcum powder. I think it's flour, actually, and it's a sound do you think that would make maybe a poof or something like that? So think about bringing the story to life, using the sounds we make with our mouths and with words.

When Cookie Crumbled

Because again, the sounds we make and the words we choose. That's all a really important part of literacy. The more we talk, the more we speak, the more we read and share, the better we get at communicating and using our voices and so, yeah, maybe let's think of one one last tip. Yeah, maybe. Maybe you could have a look at a book before you share it if you get the time.

We don't always have this time. Have a look at what's inside it, what happens, and then maybe have some props or things ready to go, or just a pen and pencil for a pen, a pencil, paper, pencil or a pen or colours, whatever, for afterwards so that you can carry on the fun beyond the story. So this one's about a witch.

And in it she gathers lots of things, ingredients to make a potion. So maybe you could make a list for a potion of your own. Maybe you could have them help you make dinner and pretend you're making a potion as you cut things and put them all together and mix things together. And maybe you have a witches hat from Halloween and you can dress up and read the story, but that can be a really fun way to do things too.

And always, always, after it's a really good time to get them using those pens and pencils. So whatever you've read, whatever you've played and done, maybe encourage them to have a go at drawing the character or have a go at writing lots of letter O's. If you've been counting O's or see if they can trace and things like that, all of these things even before they can read themselves all ways that they can enjoy reading and see that reading is a fun thing to do.

Witch in Training

And the more they start to have fun, every time you sit down and read a book, the more they're going to want to be able to read themselves. The more they can read themselves, the better they get at it, the further they go. It just opens so many doors to them. So have fun reading. And if you've got tips, I'd love to hear them and  BookTrust would too.

So any fun ways that you have of sharing, it's always good to hear. Have a good time.

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