I have a lot of pet peeves regarding bad story-time readers. I'm no expert, but I've attended and participated in many story-time activities over the years. So I know what I like and what seems to keep my kids' attention the best. And I'm working to teach Primus to be good at it. She's picking it up fantastically and at only 7, I think she is already better than a lot of adults I've seen!
If you are going to read aloud to a large group of small children, please do the following:
1. Let the story speak for itself. I get so annoyed when story readers change words or stop after every sentence to add commentary. The author, editor, and publisher put a lot of work and many hours into putting the exact words they wanted on the page. Just leave it be and enjoy as is.
2.Clearly define the place you want the children to sit. If the
parents are there, then they need as much direction as the kids! You'd
think it would be obvious, but the best place to sit is directly in
front of the storyteller. Yet almost everytime we attend storytime at
our local library, there is a parent or two who come late and sit with
their child on their lap far to the side and almost behind the
librarian. Then the child can't see the book as it is being read! The
librarian always flashes the page to everyone before she turns to a new
page. But by the time she moves it slowly from the kid on her far left
side, all the way to the kid on her far right side, she's lost most of
the kids' patience and attention.
3. Learn to read upside down. It's tricky to find a comfortable
way to hold the book so you can see and read it while all the children can see it at the same time. If you can hold the book in front of you and read it
upside down, then you'll have nothing to worry about. (Related to the flashing-the-page-problem discussed in #2.) Another
possibility is to type up the entire story ahead of time and tape it to the back cover.
4. Speak loudly. I took the kids to a Dr. Seuss story-time once at
Target. The twenty-something reading the book clearly did not want to
be there and was talking barely over a whisper. No one could hear her.
I was so close to standing up and volunteering to do it myself. It was
torture. You've got to keep the kids interested and engaged. If they can't hear you,
that's not going to happen.
5. Do voices. I am horrible at coming up with different voices for different characters and am actually pretty self conscious about it. But it's not that hard to at least figure out a high/sweet/feminine voice, a low voice, and a normal talking voice. Again, this is about keeping them interested and engaged and making it easier to follow the story.
6. Be familiar with your story. Read it over a couple times to yourself so you can use the proper inflection and emphasis where it makes sense. Inflection and emphasis are important. Monotone is the worst thing you could do. Basically, just don't make it sound boring.
7. Enjoy it! If you're having a goodtime, your audience probably will, too.