Why read aloud?

National Storytelling Week (30th Jan – 6th February) gives us the perfect opportunity to embrace stories whether that’s by reading aloud, retelling a traditional story from memory, listening to an author read their own work or recommending a favourite book.

Whilst many children will read and be read to on a regular basis, some will not. Reading might not happen for a variety of reasons – availability of books, lack of time or inclination to name a few. Sharing a range of texts digitally so your pupils can hear quality stories regularly is a great way to ensure that reading is happening and being enjoyed daily.

Reading aloud to children of any age offers lots of benefits:

  • access to more complex texts than they can read themselves (language, ideas and structure)
  • vocabulary expansion
  • improved concentration
  • better writing skills
  • stress reduction
  • boosting academic performance across the curriculum

The successful virtual storytime

Consider offering a daily storytelling time for your whole class. Encourage cups of hot chocolate or other things that make the experience special.

  • Encourage interaction. This can be particularly challenging virtually. Try gestures and facial expressions as well as joining in with repetitive text.
  • Get children to write their own stories and share them with each other. National Literacy Trust research has shown that writing helped children when they felt sad during lockdown and making up your own stories is an important part of National Storytelling Week.
  • Choose a broad mix of chapter books, picture books, non-fiction, poetry (often concise and easy to join in with) and anything else that lends itself to being read aloud. Make sure you choose something you enjoy yourself.
  • Try using other mediums to tell stories – watch book trailers, listen to songs and look at the lyrics or talk to your pupils about stories in their favourite video games or films.
  • Model storytelling by using props and different voices, add intonation and expression, pause on a cliff hanger, or ask your pupils to join in with repetitive words or add a few actions. Maybe even start a collection of dress-up clothes and soft toys that you could use.
  • Play some atmospheric music as you read the story or sing a related song at the end. Try Brian Eno or Gustav Holst – The Planets or have Star Wars music running when you read a science fiction story.
  • Recommendations are a great way to encourage participation in your virtual storytelling sessions. Read stories or poems chosen by a parent/guardian or ask pupils to read or write a book review for some of their favourite stories. You could even ask them to record their reading so you can all listen. Maybe take part in our Juniper Reading Challenge and download some of our book review templates.

A quick reminder about copyright. As a general rule, both UK and US copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator/author. So, if the author didn’t die within the last 70 years, the book is still in copyright. Up to 5% of a book or one chapter may be copied. Whole books cannot be read aloud online without the permission of the publisher/author but many have given permission in the current climate for that to be relaxed. Authorfy have a useful link showing publishers permission policies and guidelines for sharing stories online.

Online story resources: our recommendations

There’s a huge amount of free material available online to support reading aloud. Here’s a few key resources you might like to try:

  • Book Trust interactive stories and games.
  • World Book Day – Booklists for children and young people at all ages and stages for ideas and inspiration. There are stacks of links to book related resources and videos too. They have just added the Book Ideas Hub to the website.
  • Words for Life – Produced by the Literacy Trust with simple activities split by age and free reading and writing resources, audiobooks, videos, competitions and reading challenges. Their new Virtual School Library site also offers author videos, free books, exclusive videos and their top three recommended reads.
  • Authorfy – Free author resources, activity packs, writing prompts and videos.
  • Audible Stories –A free service that offers educational and entertaining audiobook content for children, teens, and families.
  • Many Public Libraries offer free audio and e-books apps such as BorrowBox. See individual Public Library websites for details.

Authors reading online

Listen to an author read their own work. These are some of our favourites:

Neil Gaiman reads The Graveyard Book.

Stay at Home Story Time with Oliver Jeffers – watch author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers reading one of his books every weekday on Instagram and talking about some of the things that went into making it. This link takes you to his website where all the videos have been collated.

Tom Palmer Literacy Resources – in addition to a range of resources linked to Tom’s books he has also provided Free Reads and a daily video of him reading aloud from his books.

Kids Poems and Stories With Michael Rosen – Official Michael Rosen video channel. All videos and playlists on this channel have been approved by Michael Rosen and are safe to watch.

Piers Torday Storytime – Live storytelling of ‘The Dark Wild’ at 2.30pm every weekday chapter a day, live on Instagram, or catch up later on YouTube.

Poetry resources – James Carter or Brian Moses

Virtual School Library | Oak Academy (thenational.academy) – a new book to listen to every week.

Allison King

Allison King

Allison King is a Chartered Librarian for the Education Resources Service at Juniper Education. Allison has many years of experience working in research libraries in the finance sector, children’s libraries in primary schools and the Public Library. She runs the well established Juniper Book Award and enjoys reading stories on the Storytelling Bookbus.