Reading aloud to children - How to enhance the story-telling experience?



Article by Puja Chandra Nanda


All children love to be read to. Reading not only whets the child’s appetite for books and fosters the child’s imagination, the simple act of sharing a read together creates a special bonding time between the parent and child. Reading may seem a straight forward daily activity but there are ways to enhance the story-telling experience for both the reader and the listener.


- Be Prepared – It may seem unnecessary but when your audience is a bunch of curious, sprightly kids brimming with questions, you might regret the lack of preparation. Being prepared helps you alter your narrative according to the age and taste of the audience, weave in plentiful expressions and answer every question that is thrown your way.


- Get your Child Involved - If reading to your child is a daily routine, you can build your child’s interest and get him involved by letting him choose the story. The flip side is that the child may choose his favourite story five days in a row and it may be difficult for you to maintain your enthusiasm! You may want to gently encourage him to choose a different story each time, by steering him to the long neglected books. 


- Choose the Right Story - It is important to choose the story according to the age and attention span of the child as well as the time of the day for it to be received well by the audience. For example, an adventure or mystery book with lots of twists and turns may be a great read to fight boredom on a long car or train ride but it is not ideal as a bedtime story. Similarly, while a story which requires dramatization and voice modulation is essential to retain a toddler’s interest, an older child may not be impressed.


- Choose the Right Time - Choose a time when the child is likely to be most attentive. It is equally important to choose a time when you, yourself are in a relaxed frame of mind and are free from household or office chores. Choose a time when you are least likely to be distracted by calls or mails. Children usually lack patience to hang around when the reader is away and frequent disturbances can kill a good story.


- Give it all you have - Don’t be miserly with sound effects and expressions. Let your eyes smile and dance with the words, modulate your tone, pause for effect, whistle, toot or shush. Use simple props if you can. Your child is surely going to appreciate your wholehearted effort.


- Pause Often - Pause at the end of a sentence, before unravelling a mystery or even to quieten the dim in the room. Don’t underestimate the strength of a pause. In story-telling, a pause can be your best friend while keeping the little ones rooted for more.


- Make it Fun and Interactive:

Ask many questions and answer even more.

Play the “Guess what happened next?” game with the kids.

Let the children hold, taste or smell something related to the story – that will pique their interest and keep them involved.

Do a little ‘rat-a tat’ as you end one page and turn to the next – this trick retains the attention of even the most sleepy child and helps stave off boredom in long books.

Pass around a colouring sheet based on the story at the end of the session to take home.


- End the Story Properly – It is important to conclude the story properly; look around at the faces to make out whether they are satisfied, confused or waiting for more; engage the kids in a question- answer or dialogue session.


- Don’t Fake it! - Most importantly, don’t fake your enthusiasm. Children are very quick in detecting the adult’s lack of attention and faked enthusiasm. So even if you cannot perfect the technique, just the simple act of reading to the child with love and genuine enthusiasm is enough. As a saying goes “Learning to read takes practice. Loving to read takes enthusiasm.”



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