Sharing a book with your child?
Ham it up!—By Jessica Tom
Laugh, cry, scream, whisper: reading doesn’t have to be a silent activity. Transform the read-aloud experience by giving your child an impassioned one-person show that will stimulate his wonder for both the written and spoken word.
- Once upon a time . . . : Authors spend a lot of time crafting their opening lines. Give the words the weight they deserve by reading them with extra importance. Who will we meet? What will happen? Grab your child’s attention with an authoritative voice.
- X said to Y, who immediately told Z: Read character names slowly and clearly so your child knows who is acting on whom. Books revolve around character, so spare confusion and make sure she knows who’s who!
- “Read to me!” the monster boomed: Animate characters with different voices. If you have time, preview books before you read them out loud with your child. Otherwise, you might stereotype and give a nasty princess a sweet voice, or a gentle giant a scary one.
- Trust the layout: It’s been well thought out. Take cues from the book’s spacing. Line and page breaks are purposeful and give you an idea how the words ebb and flow.
- Look for rhythm. Look for rhyme. Anticipate words every time: Tune into the author’s sense of timing to accentuate the texture of the narrative. Many children’s books will reveal a sort of melody that will delight your young listener.
- Raise your voice! (And lower it too): Avoid toneless blah-blah-blah by altering your volume and tempo. Read loudly and quickly during frantic scenes, slowly and soothingly during tranquil ones.
- Use body language: Whether you’re reading a book with or without pictures, your child will take notice of your face and body. Though you needn’t act out every handshake, embrace, or swordfight, if you let the words move your body, you’ll help make the text come alive.
- But avoid overacting! Let your child imagine. The book is the focus, and you’re just the spokesperson.
- Stay sensitive to the climax: Every story leads to crucial moment. Notice the arc of the author’s plot arc and the way she creates suspense. Use this knowledge to create dramatic tension. You’ll know you’ve succeeded when your child’s eyes are wide open.
- Finally . . . : Slow down and take a deep breath. Signal the book’s ending by shifting to a more mellow gear. End with a conclusive stop.