How to Read a Book to a Group of Kids
Children have a rich imagination and they love using it. By involving children in group reading, you can satisfy their need to be imaginative and social. Take care to get involved with a structured reading group and watch their creativity flourish.
Getting Ready for Storytime
Bring an interesting book.Kids don’t have very long attention spans, so try to choose a book that will be interesting to them and likewise to you. Children are keenly aware when the adult around them is not interested in what they’re doing. Try a pop-up book if you’re unsure how to pick something fun.
- If you find that the kids are not paying attention, or you just want to avoid losing their interest, try selecting a few books, two or three should suffice, and have the kids vote on which one they want to read. You can’t please everyone, but you can work the runner-up story into the next storytime.
- Take the children's age into account. Different ages might find different types of books interesting.
- Try not to get a book that is too long. Aim for 1 that can be read in about 10-15 minutes.
Select an appropriate topic.The book you choose should be appropriate for the age group and appropriate with regard to content. If you’ve been tasked to read to older children, books likeEverybody Poopsmay not be the best selection. Instead, try something in the Dr. Seuss line, or the classicIncognito Mosquito.
Read ahead.Regardless of the age group, make sure you read the book yourself a few times. You can think about possible questions the kids might have, think of fun ways to read through the book, and also find a natural rhythm or cadence that fits the pace and tone of the book.
- As you read, plan some questions to ask the kids later. These question should ask children what they think will happen next or why they think something happened the way it did.
Change up the story.Pick different stories for each reading. If you read the same story again and again the kids are likely to get bored. What’s more, reading a variety of stories will expose the children to a breadth of vocabulary, plots, and diversity, specifically in the types of language. In other words, your little ones will have ongoing experiences with different syntactic forms (sentence and phrase structure), sounds, verb tenses, and emotions.
Talk loud enough for everyone to hear.You’ll lose part of the audience if they can’t hear you. Also, they won’t be able to pay attention if they don’t know what’s going on.
- Please remember that there is a difference between talking for all to hear and yelling a story at the kids. Avoid the latter by testing the room’s acoustics beforehand. You can do this by reading to another adult or even by turning on the voice recorder on your phone and placing it in the middle of the room.
Set rules and stick to them.Kids need structure and learn this through interaction. Before you start reading the story, be sure to reinforce a few simple rules like, “don’t interrupt the story” and “raise your hand if you have a question.” As you read through the story, you’ll likely need to restate these simple rules several times, but do it calmly and politely.
- If you happen to be interrupted, you can try to a polite phrase like “I see your hand, please wait your turn” or “I’ll call on you when it’s time for questions.”
- Make sure any teaching assistants or volunteers are also aware of what they can do during this time. Perhaps they can model good listening behavior or they can watch the students to see if they're paying attention.
- If the children seem bored by the book, move on to the next activity. Try getting a book with more pictures or a more exciting story next time.
Making the Story Interesting
Act out different voices.Whether it’s a book about a caterpillar or the three little pigs, there is always room for fun. As you preview the book, come up with some different ways to read each character’s lines, using vocal expression. You might change the pitch of your voice from low to high, speed it up or slow it down, or add a voice effect like talking in a whisper or creaky voice.
- Also, you’ll likely find that making faces helps too, and can be quite natural. You can also try to act out a specific word, like saying “scared” in a scary voice, or saying “happy” in a cheerful tone. Remember, it’s your job to make the grumpy old man in the book sound even grumpier!
Fix-up the reading area.You don’t have to read to the kids in an emotionally sterile environment; make the reading area fun and interesting to be in. You can add comfortable rugs, and throw in some over-sized pillows or bean bag chairs. Also suggest to the parents that the kids bring their favorite comfy blanket if the story is around nap time. You might kill two birds with one stone.
Don't read too fast.If you find yourself reading too quickly and blowing through the story, the children and the parents may not be able to keep up and you could lose your audience. Practice your rate of speech in advance and time the story. You’ll find that you stay on track better by making yourself aware of your own voice.
- It may be a good idea to take a slight pause of 2-3 seconds as you turn each page. This will add an equal amount of spacing at regular intervals and slow your rate of speech appropriately.
Engaging the Kids
Show pictures.You can involve the kids by showing them all the pictures in the book. Seeing the pictures help kids understand the book better in addition to keeping everyone's attention. As you show the each picture, you’ll need to ensure that you are catching each member of your audience. To do this, sit comfortably so you can easily turn to show the book to the left and right sides of the room.
- Practice holding the book in a way where you can read it and show the children the pictures at the same time. If this doesn't work, make sure to always show the picture after you have read the text on that page.
Ask questions.Another way to engage the group is to ask what the children would do at specific parts in the story. For example, while readingThe Three Little Pigs, you might ask the kids “Who would open the door for the wolf?” or “What would you build the house out of?” The responses may be surprise you in witty and clever ways.
- You should try to ask just a few questions near the middle of the story, and again at the end. Don’t ask too many questions too often or it may break up the story and you’ll lose continuity.
Use props.Try adding a prop to the story for the kids to use as you read. For example, hand out egg shakers for the kids to shake when something specific happens, like thunder rumbling or when a character skips. This will bring the children into the story and make it more fun for all.
- Also include some stuffed animals that look like the characters. So you would bring a stuffed wolf or turtle for the kids to act out some scenes. This also serves as a great way to extend the children’s imaginations.
Follow up after the story.Immediately after the story, ask the kids what their favorite parts were. Take it to the next step and have them make up what will happen next. This is perfect to spark creativity and keep them reading.
- Asking the children follow questions can be very useful. Try asking a question that requires limited or guided output like “Who remembers what the hungry caterpillar ate?” or “What happened to Humpty Dumpty?”You’ll also get a good idea of who was paying attention, in addition to checking their comprehension skills.
- Be ready for hecklers and tempers (from the kids!). Kids are in a constant process of learning, so be patient with them and learn how to deal with them politely.
- Treat all of the kids equally and fairly. Make certain not to call on one child more than another.
Video: How To Read a Book a Week | Jim Kwik
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