Fun, educational and a brilliant bonding opportunity, reading aloud to children is always time well spent. However, when the child themselves must become the storyteller, they may be considerably less excited to turn the pages – especially when it feels like the whole world is watching, line-by-line.
Even when children are showing a real enthusiasm for independent reading, there’s a vast difference between settling down in a quiet corner and being asked to read in front of the whole class.
With errors made public and voices stifled by nerves, reading aloud can be a task that many children would much rather avoid – but there’s a host of benefits associated with firmly grabbing a book by the spine and proceeding to captivate your peers, including increased comprehension and challenging intonation.
If you know a child who’s shy to make their voice heard, just take a look at our top tips. You’ll have them proudly sharing a bedtime favourite in no time.
1. Emphasise that you aren’t looking for perfection.
When it comes to reading aloud, even the most competent of public speakers are likely to slip up every now and again – it’s part of stepping up to the challenge.
If children think they will be berated or ridiculed if they make a mistake, it’s no wonder that they hold back. The most comforting thing you can do as a teacher is to create a supportive environment, where help is freely offered, praise is readily available and – of course – there is zero tolerance in the classroom for teasing.
A child who is willing to share a favourite story with their classmates, despite a few struggles, is doing a fabulous job; just as much as the child who can recite a story with ease.
2. Don’t overcorrect.
There’s a fine line between supporting a struggling child and jumping in too early, and too often.
A child that is constantly corrected can lose their confidence quickly, even if your honest intention was to help. What do they learn from this experience? Is it a comfort, or are you merely emphasising that everything they say is ‘wrong’?
Take a step back and allow the child to sound their way around the words – especially if reading in front of a group. You’ll soon know if they need help to continue.
3. Encourage reading to younger children.
If you can arrange a visit to a younger year group, it’s a great chance for your class to demonstrate their read-aloud skills to a keen audience.
Younger children are unlikely to have the same level of competency, and therefore the reader needn’t be worried about being endlessly corrected. In addition, you can never underestimate the power of being regarded as the ‘big kid’, and the much-needed ego boost it can bring.
Who knows – maybe it’ll even inspire the next generation of teachers?
4. Avert your gaze.
Much like typing your password into a laptop when a roomful of people are waiting for you to present, there’s nothing like an audience to suddenly make you forget what you know like the back of your hand.
If a child in your class can read competently for pleasure, but suddenly can’t master the basics when you sit by their side, it could be a case of stage fright.
To get their read-aloud confidence to grow, try introducing a less intimidating reading partner; a favourite toy from home, or even set some homework to read aloud to a pet, or while dad is doing the washing up.
When the child isn’t being scrutinised by an onlooker (or at least, that’s what it feels like) they may surprise themselves with what they can achieve – whether that’s reading a whole page aloud, or an entire storybook.
If you’re eager to find even more ways for your class to gain confidence in storytelling, why not arrange a free 14-day trial with Mighty Writer? A one-of-a-kind literacy tool which simplifies the traditionally complex process of learning to write, the literacy skills of your class will be transformed – almost overnight.
About the author
Emma Ralph was an Assistant Head Teacher at Hillbourne Primary School in Poole, where she helped to improve the school’s literacy standards. Spotting a gap in the market for a literacy resource which taught children the fundamentals of punctuation, vocabulary and sentence structure in a visual, fun and engaging way, Emma developed her own product: Mighty Writer. It is now transforming the literacy of tens of thousands of children in over 550 schools around the world.