I think Dr. Seuss books were meant more for adults than for children. I mean, the sing-song rhyminess is great for any age, but I didn’t pay real attention to stories as a kid. Now I do, and I like them too. So much fun to listen, so exciting to read. There’s a lesson to be learnt, if only we’ll heed.
OK, so I don’t have quite the same rhythmic effect as the good doctor, but now more than ever, I appreciate what I read more when I add a little dramatic effect. It makes me appreciate all the parents and teachers who do dramatic readings for their kids.
Llama, Llama, Red Pajama is probably one of my favorite books to read to my girls because there are so many vocal effects one can add to the story with varying tempos, volumes, and voices. It’s fantastic, and my girls love it almost as much as I do.
So here are five ideas that you can use to add a little pizzazz to story time.
- Pre-read and re-read
It can be difficult to get the right sound effect when you are reading it for the first time. You might take a breath when the sentence you just read really needs to run on into the next sentence. And of course there are the times when you read a sentence at a temperate volume, and then it says, “whispered Molly.” You have to pre-read the story to be able to demonstrate the emotions that are being displayed – especially if what the characters are saying is opposite of how they are feeling. You have to pre-read the story to know why those emotions are being shown. And sorry, but one read-through does not an expert make. Read, read, and read again!
- Act and react
You might not have the natural gift for acting, but your kids don’t know that, and they don’t care. It’s great when you have the sound down, but the kids need to see that sound as well. If a character is sad, you need to look sad. When the character is scared, feel the fear. The kids need to see and hear in order to feel it and understand it. And when something happens, you need to be just as surprised as the character. It doesn’t matter how many times you have read the story in preparation or played out the story to your kids – you are the characters! You are each and every character. And each time you read the story should be like you are experiencing it for the first time.
- Look at and involve the kids
Your eyes will show a lot since you are actually acting out what you are reading, so be sure to make eye contact with your kids. It also makes them feel like a part of the storytelling instead of just the audience. They are experiencing it with you. And after you have read the book a few times to your kids, they memorize the words. I like to pause sporadically in the story and let the kids fill in the words they know.
- Ask questions
So the story is over. The End. But you’re not quite done yet. This is the best part of the involvement. Ask them questions. You can make sure they understand what was going on and why, but even better – you can ask them what they would have done differently. Why did the character make that decision? What are some other decisions they could have made instead or in addition to? What would you have done? How do you think the story would have ended differently with your decision? Make them think and get creative.
- Have fun!
This is the most important part of it all and what will make any story a success. If you are having fun, your kids will have fun, whether they like the story or not. This is time with their parent(s)! And no matter how well you tell the story, it is the time with you that they will remember most. My kids’ memories of the things we do together are different from my memories of those same times. I think of all the things I did wrong or could have done better. But they tell it, it’s like they were looking through rose-colored glasses. I’ve come to understand though, that’s not it at all. They had a blast, not because they can’t see my faults, but because spending time with their parents is fun!
These are just a few things I like to do when reading books with my kids. Now, when they read stories to me, they do the same things. They use different voices. They get involved with the story. It makes it more fun to read and to listen!