Category Archives: Reading Aloud

Audiobooks as a Literacy Tool

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.Jim Trelease, author of The Read Alound Handbook

audiobook kids

The Benefits of Reading Aloud

When I attended college back in the 1990’s, we elementary education majors got an earful about the 1985 findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Study after study was telling us that reading to children is one of the very best ways to help children become successful readers.

That consensus hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s a philosophy that was pushed heavily in the schools where I worked. When I stopped teaching to raise a family and it became apparent that two of my kids struggled with varying degrees of dyslexia, I read widely on the subject. Guess what the experts recommended? Reading aloud in a variety of formats: teachers reading to students, students reading to teachers, teachers reading chorally with their students, students reading chorally with other students, students performing practiced text aloud to an audience, students recording practiced text, etc, etc, etc.

brainAgain and again studies suggest that listening provides many of the same benefits as reading. And it seems that taking in language audibly and visually creates connections within different parts of the brain that aid a variety of reading skills: decoding, comprehension, increased vocabulary, fluency, word recognition…

I opted to homeschool my low readers so I could impliment these suggestions liberally throughout the school day and across the curriculum. It was a wise decision. Though they aren’t quite up to grade level, their proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Audiobooks: A Practical Solution

But very few teachers have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio. And parents may not have time to read aloud as much as they would like to. Let me suggest a very practical solution: audiobooks.

Many teachers I know actually record themselves reading classroom books and provide their students with MP3 players so they can listen while reading along. I did this with my boys. It’s a great way for kids to practice reading without direct help. But pre-recording all those books takes a lot of time. And the quality? Um… Let’s just say listening to professional voice artists is far more enjoyable. Reading along can be really FUN!

But aren’t audiobooks expensive?

They don’t have to be! If you buy an ebook on Amazon, the audiobook is often available for a ridiculously low price. For example, the audiobook for The Candle Star lists on Amazon for $14.95. But if you purchase the ebook for 99 cents, you have the option of adding the audiobook for another $1.99. That is a significant savings! Just look for “Add Audible narration” on the page listing.

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I don’t know how to listen to an audiobook.

No problem. You can turn any device you own into an audiobook player (Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Android phone, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android tablets, even your PC or MP3 player). Just download the appropriate app and bingo! You’re listening.

If you’re still not certain you want to jump onboard the audio bandwagon, let me suggest that audiobooks are absolutely AWESOME for family road trips. (They’re not bad for work commutes, lawn mowing, cooking, or other brain-free, hands-busy moments either.)

We have a growing selection of kid-friendly audibooks here on Emblazon, often for dirt cheap through Amazon’s narration option. Now that you know about that little secret, you can watch for it on thousands of Amazon titles.

Audiobooks should never replace the special one-on-one time a parent and child share reading books together. But they’re an effective, practical, and inexpensive option for all those other “listenable” moments. Pick one out to enjoy with your family today.

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Michelle Isenhoff is a former teacher, current homeschool mom, and reviewer on her award-winning children’s lit blog, Bookworm Blather. Listen to samples of her audibooks here.

 

Tips For Reading Aloud at School Visits

Visiting schools and connecting with students is rewarding and inspiring, especially if the kids have read your book and are excited to meet you.

Every speaker has a mouth; 
An arrangement rather neat.
 Sometimes it’s filled with wisdom. Sometimes it’s filled with feet.  ~  Robert Orben

I’ve found using visual aids or props (such as a funny hat) works well in grabbing the kids’ attention . Once you’ve got it, you want to keep it.

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Werewolf hands and storytelling cloak piqued kids’ curiosity at this reading.

Here are a few simple tips that can help to engage your audience while you read short excerpts or whatever you’ve chosen to share:

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  • Practice reading your material aloud beforehand. You’ll sound polished and will nail the pacing. Pause for a second to emphasize certain parts. For example, a line or phrase that’s spooky. The pause adds drama and anticipation.
  • Introduce yourself. Tell them you’re a children’s writer and what ages you write for. Even if you’re not published yet, you’re a writer. They’ll be impressed. Add some interesting, fun, or silly facts about yourself.
  • Give a quick explanation about what you’ll be reading. If it’s an excerpt from your book or anthology, give a brief description about what part of the book you’re reading from. For example, if I’m reading from Secret of Haunted Bog, I tell the kids, “This is the part where AJ Zantony and Freddy ‘Hangman’ Gallows are lost deep in the bog.”
  • Make eye contact often.
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Make eye contact.
  • Mark the spot you’re reading from with your finger or thumb so you don’t lose your place.
  • Avoid speaking in a monotone voice.
  • Speak loud and clear so everyone in the room can hear you. I get a big kick out of startling the kids when I read a short excerpt from Curse at Zala Manor that begins with a shouting “Arrggh!” from Musky, the zombie.
  • Be dramatic. Kids love it, and they’ll pay closer attention. Use different voices for the different characters. I love doing Stumpy the peg-leg skeleton’s scratchy voice when he says, “Give me back me key, wench!” from that same Zala Manor excerpt. It always gets a good reaction.
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Be dramatic and animated.
  • Keep it short. The length should vary according to what grade level you’re dealing with.
  • Variety is the spice of school visits. Depending on how much time you have, switch it up and read a few different things.
  • If you’re speaking into a microphone, it’s much easier if it’s propped up in the stand instead of trying to juggle it plus hold the book or papers you’re reading from.
  • Keep making eye contact and try to cover all areas of your audience so they feel like you’re talking directly to them.
  • If you make a mistake, smile and shrug it off. Kids don’t expect you to be perfect. We all mess up when reading something out loud. They’ll take your cue and follow your example the next time they stumble over words when reading out loud in class.
  • If you have props that go along with the reading, be sure to use them. I had a cheap plastic pirate’s hook from the dollar store that I held while reading Shel Silverstein’s poem “Captain Hook” from Where the Sidewalk Ends, and I used it to touch my toes and put it up to my nose as I read those parts. Arr! The rascals loved it!

Each visit is different, and getting the students’ feedback on their interests and ideas can turn out to be a gold mine for you! So have at it. And pat yourself on the back for taking the time to make a difference and touch young lives.

Do you have any other tips to add? Do you have a favorite anecdote from one of your school visits? Do you love connecting with kids? 

Lynn Kelley Author, Curse of the Double Digits, BBH McChiller, Monster Moon mysteries
Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little rascals, but nowadays she’s a goofball in the highest degree who’s susceptible to laughing jags. She tries to control herself out in public, but it’s not easy. She’ll jump at any excuse to wear funky get-ups. For instance, making wacky YouTube videos, entertaining her grandkids, or hanging out at  a costume party.

Her first chapter book, Curse of the Double Digits, debuted in October 2012. Under the pseudonym BBH McChiller she and co-author Kathryn Sant write the fun, spooky Monster Moon mystery series for ages 8 to 12.  Book 1 – Curse at Zala Manor,  Book 2 – Secret of Haunted Bog, and Book 3 – Legend of Monster Island.