Guest post By Jocelyn Greene (Don’t miss her discount code below if you’re NYC-based!)
Kids love to be entertained, they also love to take part in their own entertainment. So here is the plan: Make reading aloud a game and let them play parts in the stories you read with them. I call it ACTive Reading!
Creating the environment of a book is a wonderful way in. Let your child explore the way the ocean sounds while reading, Mariana and the Merchild: A Folk Tale from Chile. Playfully whistle and whoosh the sea and the wind with them; create whale calls and dolphin whistles. Then have them quietly continue the ocean soundtrack under your reading aloud and the effect can be quite hauntingly beautiful. When reading Make Way for Ducklings what happens when your child acts out the traffic and the noisy streets of Boston or the quacks of the duck family? How about the sounds of the monkeys in The Hatseller And The Monkeys or the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are? You may come up with sounds together that are funny, some that are eerie. Chances are you’ll be surprised by the way they astutely hear their world and give voice to their imaginations.
Beyond setting the scene, most children are eager to play the parts in the stories they read. If they read themselves, they will enjoy following along while you read and saying the words of a certain character. Whether you are reading, Horton Hears A Who! or the Harry Potter books, there will likely be a character with whom they identify. Let them cast themselves and say their character’s dialogue while you read the rest. They will be living inside the story in a very exciting way. For a moment in time, the character’s journey becomes their journey. If they aren’t reading yet, gently prompt them with the character’s lines and let them interpret the rest.
In this way, you enter into a kind of dialogue with your child even while you are reading. They’ll feel connected to the world of the book because they are a part of creating it and they’ll feel connected to you as you both tell the story. They’ll also be having a lot of fun, which is always the bottom line!
Jocelyn Greene teaches acting at Packer Collegiate Institute and Berkeley Carroll School. She is the Executive Director of Child’s Play NY (www.childsplayny.com) now enrolling for summer classes. Kids age 4-10 explore theater in week-long intensive sessions. Use code SM2010 for a 10% rebate on tuition.