How to read aloud well

Early reading specialist Emily Guille-Marrett from Reading Fairy shares her top tips on reading aloud.

Reading aloud is the practice of reading from a book out loud to an audience of one or more. By its very nature reading aloud is interactive, sensory and can be hugely exciting for everyone.

In Greek and Roman times, reading silently to yourself was frowned upon. It was very popular for people to hold gatherings where they would read aloud to their friends.

Children at school

Why read aloud?

Reading books aloud can help children develop key literacy skills and help them develop a love of reading for life. A child's future is brighter when he or she has a love of reading and plenty of books to read.

When I read aloud I feel responsible for delivering the story in a way that inspires every child in front of me. I also feel a sense of duty to represent the book in a way the author and illustrator would be proud of too. We must never forget the power the gift of reading aloud well holds for our young children's futures.

Reading aloud is not the same as oral storytelling, which also helps a child's learning.

My ten steps to read aloud success are:

  1. Perform
  2. Purpose
  3. Plan
  4. Props and puppets
  5. Practice
  6. Prepare (you and your audience)
  7. Projection, pitch and pace
  8. Power, pause and pose
  9. Pages (print and pictures)
  10. Pleasure

Although I've listed ten steps, I'm going to concentrate on the most important points.

Reading aloud at school

Perform

I am not suggesting that we all need to be the world's greatest actors to read aloud to our children. But we do have a responsibility to deliver the telling of a book well for the benefit of every child. 

When reading aloud to children we must show enthusiasm for a story. And when appropriate, we should use funny voices or pull different facial expressions. Sometimes our voices need to be as loud as thunder. Sometimes we need to be as quiet as a mouse

Some books need to be told with the reader sitting down and some need to be read standing up and moving around. Sometimes, we want children to join in with their voices and bodies - 'Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me. I'm the Gingerbread Man!' Sometimes we want them to sit still and listen quietly.

Make sure to think about the pictures when you read children's books aloud. Great examples to try include the suggestions offered by Michael Rosen - Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins and books by Anthony Browne.

School children being read to

Pleasure

Enjoyment of reading has a direct impact on a child's success at school as well as their overall wellbeing. Being read aloud to well in a interactive way is key to developing an early enjoyment of reading.

Before you read a book, you and your children will have much more fun if you do four simple things:

  • Know the book - read it in advance
  • Choose a book that features a character your child can relate to
  • Like the book you are reading  - your enthusiasm will be infectious!
  • Make sure the book is written well and suitable for being read aloud

So do ensure you are up to speed with a range of children's picture books. It will help you to read the books well and inspire your children's love of reading. Libraries, book awards and reading lists can assist you to find the perfect book for you and your child to enjoy together. 

Keep reading for a few fabulous picture books I enjoy reading aloud...

WOW! Said the Owl

Tim Hopgood

Everyone knows that owls are nocturnal but one curious little owl decides to take a long nap at night so she can stay awake during the day.

Read more about WOW! Said the Owl

Pumpkin Soup

Helen Cooper

The Cat, the Squirrel and the Duck live together in perfect harmony, eating pumpkin soup and playing their musical instruments. Until one day Duck decides he'll try stirring the soup…

Read more about Pumpkin Soup

The Very Busy Spider

Eric Carle

One morning in a farmyard a spider begins to spin a web. All the animals try to persuade her to stop but she doesn't answer any of them; she is too busy spinning her web.

Read more about The Very Busy Spider

Open Very Carefully

Nick Bromley Illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne

A crocodile has invaded the pages of this picture book, and is causing chaos by gobbling up words!

Read more about Open Very Carefully

Each Peach Pear Plum

Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Janet Ahlberg

This classic book from author and illustrator team Janet and Allan Ahlberg is a real favourite with families

Read more about Each Peach Pear Plum

Lost and Found

Oliver Jeffers

Once there was a sad, lonely penguin who appeared at the door of a young boy. The boy decided he must be lost, so he set off to find his home.

Read more about Lost and Found

What the Ladybird Heard

Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Lydia Monks

The animals on the farm are always noisy, all except for the ladybird who never says a word. But when burglars plot to steal the farmer's fine prize cow, the ladybird has a plan...

Read more about What the Ladybird Heard

Dogs

Emily Gravett

Full of humour and brilliant detail, there is plenty to delight babies and toddlers on every page.

Read more about Dogs

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Follow a father and his family as they go out in search of a bear.

Read more about We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

Lynley Dodd

This hilarious rhyming story follows Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, as he sets off for a walk in town

Read more about Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

Dogger

Shirley Hughes

When Dave loses his favourite toy, Dogger, he is desolate.

Read more about Dogger

Blown Away

Rob Biddulph

Penguin Blue has got a new toy, and it's the right kind of day to try it out. But the wind is a little stronger than expected and along with the new kite, Penguin Blue is blown away.

Read more about Blown Away

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