I love sharing my love of books with children by reading and telling exciting stories. There’s nothing better than taking children on a voyage of discovery through the pages of a book. It’s through stories that we learn about other places and cultures and have experiences both on and off world to fuel our imaginations.

Why is Reading Aloud so Important?

Reading a book or listening to a story is fun but there are lots of added benefits too. Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background. (OECD, 2002, 2009).
We all agree telling or reading stories is a great idea. It can help your child to do better at school, will increase their comprehension and vocabulary skills and is a great way to have fun with your child.
So how do you go about it? Here are some tried and tested tips that I have used over the years that you might like to try when you next read a story to your child.

Why is reading important

What Should you Read?

There is no wrong answer here. It’s really up to you and your child.
It doesn’t matter what kind of book it is – picture, fact or fiction, sci-fi, historical, funny, adventure or poetry. They will feel more interested in the story if they have picked it out for themselves. But if they need some help be guided by their hobbies and interests. Try showing them 3 books and ask them which one they would like to try first, or for an older child have an agreement that you will read the first 2 chapters of a new book together then move on to something else if they don’t like it and don’t worry about reading the same story over and over again – we all like to return to our favourites.

Think too about other reading materials – magazines, comics, instruction manuals, cornflake packets. Anything goes!

When and where?

There are lots of different options here and it’s often a good idea to vary not only the time but also the place. Try playing an audio book whilst doing another activity. Maybe read to your child in the bath as they can splash about whilst listening to you read. You could make a special spot for reading. My mum used to make a den under the table by draping a sheet over the top and my own children loved to crawl into a den too to listening to stories. This is a great idea at night when you can read by the light of a torch – good for scary stories, but maybe not just before bedtime!

parent reading to children in den

If you’re starting a new story you might like to read it in stages through the day to get your children hooked. Try searching YouTube for a book trailer that might have been produced by the publishers/authors to publicise their new book. It’s a great way to create anticipation and excitement. The most important thing is that you find a place with no distractions, turn off the TV, radio or computer. Make yourself comfortable, get out the blanket and snuggle up somewhere warm and cosy, whether it’s in bed, on a beanbag or on the sofa and go for it!

How Should you Read?

Telling a story can captivate an audience; that is, with the right techniques and a little practice. Here are a few you might like to try to better help your child understand the story and have a little bit of fun.

  • Read the book yourself first and think about how you might like to tell the story.
  • Use different and sometimes terrible accents and voices. Everyone laughs at my nose holding squawky parrot impression. Commit to it and soon they’ll be laughing with you, not at you.
  • Change the volume, pitch and tempo of your voice for variation in tone and delivery.
  • Add music, songs, dance and movement if it fits with the story.
  • Ask questions about the book, events and characters. What do you think will happen next? Why did you pick this book? Do you like the cover/pictures? What did you like about the book?
  • Remember to pause for dramatic effect.
  • Let your body speak as you read. Pull faces and make actions with your hands.
  • Use props or costumes (who doesn’t love a bit of dressing up?).
  • Involve your child with acting out or participating in the story. Can you show me where the alien is in the pictures? Can you repeat after me/say it with me?
  • Leave them wanting more of a longer book by ending on a cliff hanger.

Be a Positive Role Model

Get others in the family involved – grandparents can share a story virtually or set up a Zoom poetry jam with relatives. Remember whatever, whenever or however you read to your child you’re showing them how important you think reading is.

Give it a try and have fun!

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.