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How To Read so Your Child Wants to Listen: How to Make Reading Fun

How to read so your child wants to listen, a dad and daughter reading together and having fun.
Three SImple Tips to Help You

I once had some terrible feedback when I was a student teacher: the lady whose class I was taking and who was assessing me said I was boring. Ah, how embarrassing! I had to read Not Now Bernard to a class of 5-year-olds and she said, 'You just didn't do anything. You just read it.'

That was very early on in my training and, to be honest, I didn't really think about how to read a story. I suppose I naively thought I just needed to read the words out. Luckily, the school was a cute little countryside affair so the children were very polite and well-behaved despite, I am sure, not enjoying (or probably listening to) the story.

Now, ten years or so later, I definitely don't read like that anymore. So here are my three tips to help your child (and you) really enjoy reading together.

Here are the links if you want to skip ahead.

Tip 1: How to make reading fun? Do an accent or a distinctive voice

Child laughing on bed
Children love funny voices

Ok, so the first thing you are probably thinking is, 'I'm not very good at accents.' Well, I'm definitely not either but do you know what? Your child won't care. In fact, it's probably more fun when you aren't very good at it! I googled 'How to do a Scottish accent' so that I could sound more like Professor McGonagall and I doubt anyone would know it's meant to be Scottish but sometimes I'll say the odd sentence well and really impress myself. The other day, I didn't really use the voice I had been doing and Finley corrected me until I did it the way I had been doing it before so he obviously didn't mind the dodgy accent! But do be careful not to make it offensive!

If the character doesn't really have an accent or you don't want to do one then you can try to make your voice distinctive for each character. You might have a character with a high-pitched voice or one that talks quite slowly. Not sure what to do? Think about a popular character from a child's TV show or film. Or even an actor with a unique voice. You may know you're doing a Sean Connery impression but your child won't and nor will they care. They'll just enjoy the story.

Here's the teacher bit: doing these voices or accents not only makes your child much more interested in the story (as well as enjoying their time with you) but they also understand the story better. Because the character's voices are all so individual, they will easily be able to tell who is talking without it being mentioned in the text or without you explaining it to them and therefore will follow what's happening more easily.

Tip 2: What is expression and how to use it?

Dad reading to his daughter who looks shocked
Use emotion in your voice to show the character's feelings

'Expression' is a word used at school a lot when we are teaching reading. It basically means not reading like a robot (like I did in my training at that countryside school). You naturally use expression when you talk as it conveys your emotions: you emphasise certain words, your voice might go up at the end if you are asking a question, you might whisper sometimes, etc.

This is connected a lot to emotions so try to show the character's mood with your tone of voice. It might not say in the story how they are feeling so you will have to imagine what you think the character is feeling based on what is happening.

You don't need to be acting at a Robert De Niro standard - just don't be like me during teacher training, speaking in a monotone. Try to put some feeling into the words. It's actually quite fun and then, when you're in the shower later on, you can use the shampoo to practise accepting your Oscar.

Tip 3: Take your time

Another tip that I have been guilty of not following. When we are reading, we are looking ahead at the words before we read them and then we sometimes mix them up.

Slow down.

It feels like we shouldn't because people may get impatient but I can assure you, they're not. As well as making fewer mistakes, slowing down also gives you the chance to see who is speaking (so that you can do the right voice) and you can also see if it tells you how the character is speaking. I can't tell you how many times I have been reading to my class and I read, in a very loud voice, a line in the story followed by... 'he whispered.' Whoops.

Bonus: Should I ask them any questions?

A  children's book with drawings and letters coming out
To ask or not to ask...

So, while you are reading you may be wondering if you should ask your child any questions. Well, I would suggest, especially if your child doesn't normally like reading, to try not to ask too many questions to start with so you don't interrupt the flow of the story. The only reason I would ask anything at this stage would be to check they are understanding the story. For example, 'So why is he going to go there?' and clarify if they are not sure.

There is so much that I could cover on how many, what type and when to ask questions to help develop your child's reading skills so I will save that for another article.

In the meantime, good luck and I hope you create some special memories reading together.

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