Read More Usborne

Building literacy one children's book at a time…

Voice Magic – Tips from Mem Fox

I really enjoyed reading Mem Fox’s Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She has some great tips for using your voice to transform books from ho-hum words to magical music. All you drama majors can stop reading now, but for those of us who majored in more technical and less expressive subjects (yes, I know… BORING!), here are Fox’s voice tips that I have found so helpful:

  • Sensationalize the opening line of a book to grab attention.
  • Savor the closing line. Say it slowly to make it “more delicious” and create a transition from the book to next activity (hopefully bedtime!).
  • There are at least 7 ways to vary your voice. Think high/low, fast/slow, loud/soft and pause.
  • Pay close attention to the story line to know how to vary your voice using these “7 ways”.
  • Take cues from the written words. For example, consider how you might express “the wind whispered…” vs. “the wind howled…”
  • Aim for highly interesting.
  • Experiment and develop your own style.
  • Use a sing-song voice to make the story like music.
  • Read a book the same way each time to help children remember the tune. This will also make them more likely to practice “reading aloud” to themselves.

Some don’ts from Mem Fox…

  • Don’t be overly expressive.
  • Don’t be cutesy, sugary, patronizing.

I will share more tips from Mem Fox’s book soon – she has many more ideas for creating reading magic and I love her ideas for reading games to play. In the meantime, you can learn more about Fox and watch videos of her read alouds here.

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Interactive Read Aloud – Quick Tips

I admit as a first time and busy parent (with zero experience around young children in my adult life) that I thought reading aloud was about getting through the story. Check! One more book finished! (Maybe it’s the engineer in me?)

Since I’ve been learning more about the importance of reading aloud and how to foster reading comprehension, I’ve made some easy tweaks to my read aloud methods over the past few months that have reaped big rewards. I can already tell that my kiddo is more engaged while we’re reading and more eager to read when we’re not. (“I want to read a book!” has become a common request.) Here are some quick tips from the experts that have helped me:

  • Talk about the book before reading it – especially the first time. Look at the illustrations on the cover, title page and back cover and ask what the book might be about. Then maybe¬† say “Hmmm…. I think this book might be about sea turtles. What do you think?”
  • Ask the child to turn the pages. This may seem like a “duh” suggestion, but I was interested to learn that my daughter didn’t even know when to turn the page and I still have to prompt her in many books. It is my understanding that the timing will eventually come naturally to the child.
  • Allow the child to finish lines. This works best with rhyming books and books that are familiar to your child. Start using this technique with his favorite books so that it will be easier for him to “get it right”. For example, “Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the…” [pause for child to say “clock”].
  • Ask questions throughout the story such as “What do you think will happen next?” and “Why do you think the fox did that?”
  • Define vocabulary words as you go. For example, “Canine is another word for dog.”
  • Discuss the story afterward and ask questions such as “What was your favorite part of the story?” and “Why did you like that story?” and “What would have happened if…?”

It’s OK if you don’t make it all the way through the story the first time or two. Pick the book up again tomorrow and you’ll breeze through the parts you already discussed. Another option is to just start incorporating one or two of the techniques until the timing feels right to add more. Sometimes I only use one or two and other times I use them all depending on which book were reading, how much time we have, and our moods.

Try these suggestions and I’ll bet your child will gain big dividends in vocabulary and reading comprehension. Have more tips?? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you…

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