Friday, March 29, 2013

COSCBWI March 2013: Reading To An Audience

This month's COSCBWI meeting featured Angela Buelsing, a librarian with the Public Library of Cincinnati.  Angela discussed a very important skill that writers and illustrators need to learn: how to read to an audience.
Angela spent many years honing her read-aloud skills with story time at the library.  To begin her presentation, she read a festive bunny book to show us as an example of fun, energetic, and engaging reading.  (It was just like being back in elementary school!  All we needed were some graham cracker snacks...)  After watching her in action, she broke down some of the skills and pointers that can help make a read-aloud session a success for any audience.  Some of her tips included:
-Be sure to pick the correct book for your audience.  Preschoolers can't be expected to sit still for a long and wordy picture book, while eighth graders don't want to listen to a story about bouncing bunnies.
-Learn to read sideways (or upside down) and clearly.  Kids want to see the pictures while you're reading the text, and they won't understand you if you read too fast or mumble.
-Encourage involvement from your audience to keep them engaged.  You could ask for story predictions (i.e. "There was an old lady who swallowed a....insert pause....") or point out different aspects of the illustrations, rhymes, characters, etc.    
-Expect the unexpected, and roll with the punches.  Anything can happen during a read aloud session, from nosebleeds to hecklers and every sort of interruption imaginable.  Redirect disruptive kids if possible, and engage the audience in creative ways to make interruptions seem like a planned part of the storytelling experience.  
-Leave some time for a discussion and questions at the end of your reading session.  You never know what kids will want to talk about, and they are often very excited to share their thoughts on the book.  They may want to know about your favorite parts, too.
-Practice, practice, practice!  Be sure you know how to pronounce every word in the story so you don't trip over your own tongue.

-Don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself and have fun.  If kids see that you're enjoying read-aloud time, they'll enjoy it too!
Angela also acted out a story to show the importance of body movements and an expressive voice.  She definitely had us all captivated with her storytelling prowess!  By the end of the meeting, we were all inspired to grab our favorite books and share them with a young audience.  :)

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, you can check out the group website at  I hope to see you at our April meeting!

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