Thursday, November 19, 2009

No Hard Work Here

In a life before Stay-at-Home Mom I taught prep (4-5yr olds) and Year One (5-6yr olds). And no matter how busy the teaching days were I made sure we grabbed at least one book and enjoyed it, just for the hell of it.

It was very simple.
Take 30 odd children, add a few over sized cushions and find a spot away from other classrooms under a tree. Add a couple of great picture books and read.
There were two criteria for my book choices.
One- they must be fun.
Two- they must not be for the purpose of trying to teach kids anything.

I just wanted to read. I love to read aloud. Give me a book and a kid or two or three, and I will bring the voices the facial expressions. More importantly, I will bring me. And together, with those little eyes watching, we will weave enough dramatic magic to breathe life into that book.
And here's the big secret.

It. Is. Not. Hard.

Parents used to ask me how I held the attention of 30 squiggly kids when they couldn't get their soccer playing, mud-slinging son to sit still for anything other than a feed. My answer was this. I am completely carried away by what I am reading.
I am in the moment. I am sold out to the words. I am who I am. Completely.
I am reading as much for me as I am for my little audience. I am not racing to the end of the book. I am not ticking a curriculum requirement box. I am not trying to fill in time. I am not even watching the clock.

I used to read last thing before the end of the day and when that bell went everyone, including me, went, "Ohhhh!"

Why am I sharing this?
Because I'd hate to think that you were missing the fun. And just quietly, I suspect that reading aloud makes you a better writer ;)
Grab a kid. (well, get permission first if they are not your own:) and a book that you like the look of. There is no right book. Only the book that interests you. Because if it interests you enough to read it then chances are you'll be enthused when reading. Then drop your inhibitions. Honestly. Kids really like stupid. If you feel stupid reading aloud then you are probably doing it just right. And it is only the kids watching anyway. What do you care? Have fun. Be a kid for as long as it takes you to get to The End. If that means you want to do all the voices then do them, if that means you'd like to sit quietly and share the word magic in a more settled way, then do that too. Don't try to teach. Just laugh and be laughed with. Whatever you do, Do. Not. Make. It. Hard. Work.

Now I am a Mom one of my favorite activities is still reading aloud. My boys love The Very Hungry Caterpillar's deep voice (you didn't know he had a deep voice hey! You didn't even know he had any lines to say in that book did you!) They love the tiny squeaky voice of the massive bear in 'Where's my teddy?' (I like that one too!) That voice still gets my eldest son giggling, and he has heard me do it for years.

The best lessons about reading and writing come when no one is trying to teach anything. You are just soaking up a great story. Enjoy. Soak it up. Get dripping wet in those words. :) Play. And watch the magic of reading happen. Then watch what happens when you go to write. Even if you do not write for children. Even if your tale is dark and serious. The magic still works.

What about you? Got any great tales of reading fun to share? What is the most fun you and a kid have had with a book?

BTW- children don't need to be young for this to work. I have also read aloud to older children who eventually crack under the pressure of fun and enjoy being read to again.


  1. Your enthusiasm awakens the child in me, he finds his smile.....its nice to be a child again and hear stories, especially when someone does it so lovingly!

    This post has allowed me to get in touch with the child in me, which i think is a necessary part so we could dream again!!
    You must be real fun !!

    hugs to you!!

  2. Loved, loved, loved reading Going on a Bear Hunt (can't think of the author) because all the sounds were built in, and I got to elaborate on them. That book absolutely tickles!

  3. Oh girl, I need to do this. Sometimes reading aloud is a chore for me. Thank you for the reminder. :-)

  4. Ooh I love to read aloud and I loved to be read to when I was little. I don't remember everything my teachers taught me but I do remember sitting on the mat listening while hearing all about Charlie and the Chocolate factory, or Charlotte's Web, James and the Giant Peach and all the picture books too when I was smaller. Some of those books had the biggest impression on me.

    I love reading aloud too, I feel a bit silly sometimes when I'm reading my work out to myself, as a way to check for errors. I end up putting in the voices and all the expression and feeling so silly when I realise I'm just reading to myself!

  5. Reading saved my life when I was a kid. When reading I could lose myself in the words and transport myself away to a better world and at least for a while forget about the miseries I was having to face at home.

    My son had a nursery school teacher who read to her class as you read to yours. She was brilliant and I was fascinated by her. To keep him in her class I travelled 2 hours each way just so he could benefit from her and it was worth every second of that travelling.

    Those kids were blessed to have you and we are too 'cos your blogs are always good value.

    Loved every syllable . . . a real joy to read!!

  6. I always tell my sons, "Nothing is better than two boys, a blanket, and some books."

    I'm reading THE BOX CAR CHILDREN to both of them right now. My third grader has read it before (we're re-reading it for our after-school book club).

    It's thrilling to see my first grader get so involved with the story. He doesn't want to stop. Bliss!

  7. I love being read to. And I love reading out loud! You're right. The voices and facial expressions do add a lot and even if the kids think it's stupid, if you're having fun, that's all that matters:)

    "Get dripping wet in those words" - love it!


  8. "If you feel stupid reading aloud then you are probably doing it just right."

    Lol! That's so true. I really enjoy reading to my kids when I do the voices. My favorite books to read are the bear books, "Bear Snores On", "Bear Stays Up For Christmas", and there are more. The absolute BEST one is "Bear Snores On" because there are great parts in there to practice your mouse voice--high and squeaky and the hare voice, which has a distinct British accent :D

  9. What an awesome post. I'd love to sit in that audience and watch the kids faces as you read. Joy is such a fun thing to share.

  10. I love reading out loud. One of my favorites was always the Junie B books.

  11. Whenever I read the Narnia series, I want to read it outloud to children. I think it has to be one of the most beautiful stories ever penned.

  12. I fell in love with reading as a kid, so I love kid books. I think reading is extremely important and I need to push it more with my kids.

  13. I was the English teacher at a high school for kids who had exhausted all their other options. I read whole novels to them. It was amazing to have 12 teenage boys wrapped up in a great novel. They often didn't want me to stop, and the discussions we had were great. It was the best part of my job. I loved it. It's really what inspired me to start writing YA.

  14. Such a delightful post, Tabitha. I can just see you surrounded by little ones. HOw lucky they are, and your own two boys. Hopefully, your love of books will get transferred to all those fertile minds.

  15. Oh, I love reading aloud too! I love to do the voices and be silly--sometimes I wish I could come up with a great picture book idea, because the picture book authors have the best audience! We love reading Mo Willems and David Shannon books. They both create such funny and expressive characters.

  16. Reading aloud to my son was probably the thing I was most looking forward to before he was born. And I have to say, it is even more fun than I was expecting. It's the neatest feeling to see him at 15 months old grab a book, snuggle up on a pillow and "read" to himself.

  17. Having taught the 9th grade for 3 years, it is my constant battle to show them how much fun reading can be. Some of them catch on and some don't, but one of my most prized moments as a teacher was when one of my "non-readers" came to me and said, "Mrs. know what I did last night? Read a book." He smiled and so did I.

  18. what a lovely passion to have...i do not share this passion but it is greatly appreciated. I'm sure you are captivating.

    much love

  19. Read Aloud time is the one thing I miss about being in the classroom this time. It was the most fun ever. And I always felt like I was giving parents the greatest gift by telling them how important it was to read to their kids - even big hulking sixth grade kids. Who doesn't love to be read to?