When reading aloud to a small group of children, it is best to use a 'performer' style’ (focusing on reading the story uninterrupted and talking about the story after finishing it). We know that this doesn't come naturally to all of us, so we've created 8 quick tips to help you: 

Tip 1: Don't do it 'on the hoof'. 

  • Choose the book (s) you are going to read. 
  • Read and re-read the text until you feel completely familiar with it - having a broad sense of the story is not sufficient. 
  • Use the remaining tips in this leaflet to prepare exactly how you want to perform the reading of the story. 
  • Practice...by actually performing the read out loud: it's not enough to 'do it in your head'. 

Tip 2: Set the scene for your start. 

  • Show the children the front cover: ask them what they think the story might be about. 
  • Read out the 'blurb' on the back of the book: it has key background information to help them appreciate the story. 
  • Come up with a 'follow-on' phrase from the blurb to lead into the reading of the story e.g. "well, shall we find out what happened when Goldilocks met the bears?"

Tip 3: Get (and stay in) character. 

  • Giving the characters (and the narrator) distinct voices and maintaining them throughout the story is hard-work!
  • Always use your own 'performance voice' for the narrator. 
  • Try to create a mental image and associated 'mnemonic' for the characteristics of each character's voice (i.e. the way you perform it). 
  • Don't be afraid to adopt a physical stance or gesture if it helps reinforce which character you are 'in'. 

Tip 4: Read with the right expression.

  • Display the right feeling where the author tells you how something is said!
  • Vary the pace of your reading to fit the story. Read a fast moving action scene quickly. Read a suspenseful part slowly, drawing out the words. 

Tip 5: Put a bit of oomph into your performance.  

  • Don't underestimate the effect of 'stage fright': make a conscious effort to show that you are involved with the book and enthusiastic about reading it...but do make sure you stay the right side of over exaggeration!
  • Clearly pronounce all the sounds...enunciating for an audience (even a little one) is much more like 'acting' than reading one-to-one. 
  • Have fun and enhance the impact of your reading by performing appropriate actions and adding your own 'sound effects'. 

Tip 6: Bring it all together.

  • But suddenly, there was a storm. (Narrator voice, read quickly, emphasising 'suddenly'.)

  • The sea tossed the ship this way and that. (Narrator voice, move to left on 'this way', move to the right on 'that'.)

Tip 7: Look after your voice.

  • Breathe deeply, but naturally, so you have plenty of puff for longer sentences. 
  • Relax your throat muscles - they don't work as well if they are tense. 

Tip 8: Use the power of the pause. 

  • To take a breath - it's definitely helpful to keep breathing!
  • To demonstrate the point of punctuation. 
  • To create atmosphere - quietly reflective, adding to the suspense...
  • To give your audience time to think about what they've been told, or what is going to happen. 
  • To give you time to change your voice and stance. 
  • To show the children the picture at the end of each page. 

We've been working with M&S and Parragon to help bring these tips to life. Check out our tip sheet for more information and guidance.  

If you have any more great tips on how to engage reluctant and struggling readers, then speak to us as we'd love to hear them. Or why not put your tips into action by becoming a Coram Beanstalk reading helper