Have a book event scheduled in which you'll have to read your story aloud? Want some tips to ensure it will be an engaging experience for your audience? Nine kidlit professionals share their advice on how to dish up a scrumptious
Jennifer Laughran, senior literary agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency and part-time children's bookseller:
Having the sections in a very readable, large format will make it easier for you to lie the binder down on the table or podium, so you don't have to fumble around with the book or block the audience by putting it in front of your eyes. The fact that each paragraph has its own page means you are forced to slow down.
Now practice reading to your friends, or even your pets. Remember, don't go too fast, don't mumble, and don't forget to breathe.
Daniel Nayeri, director of children's publishing at Workman Publishing and author of a young-adult novella collection:
Mary Amato, award-winning middle-grade book author, poet, playwright and songwriter:
Moira Donohue, poet, playwright and children's non-fiction book author:
When I get to the climax of the story, I pause, drop my volume and speak more slowly. I can see the audience literally hold their breaths and lean in, and I know that I have them!
Erica Perl, award-winning author of picture-books, middle-grade and young-adult novels:
Sara Holmes, author of middle-grade books:
See if you can use a cordless headset rather than a hand-held mike--it makes holding a book and reading expressively so much easier.
Marfé Delano, author of narrative non-fiction for children:
I try to keep things spontaneous--like I'm sharing the story for the first time. That helps keep me excited.
Brian Rock, picture-book author:
Ask fun, trivia-type questions relevant to your book before the reading. Include as much unusual, outlandish, or downright-gross information about your subject to really capture kids' attention.
For picture books, memorize as much of the text as you can so that you can keep eye contact with your audience. I know it's tough to memorize, but so is trying to read upside down with a class full of kids staring at you!
If your book has multiple characters, try to give each one a unique voice. High, squeaky voices are always good for a laugh!
Don't forget to put the big bang at the end so everyone knows when to applaud. I know it sounds weird, but sometimes kids won't applaud until they hear the words, "The End." Don't be afraid to use them, even if they're not written in your text.
Have fun! If you're scared or nervous, your audience will feel a bit nervous as well. If you're at ease and having fun, they'll pick up on your energy and raise it even higher!
Lynne Chapman, author and illustrator of children's picture books:
I let them draw so they don’t get wriggly. I finish with another story to bring it back together and to calm it down. I can get any children over 5 years-old to sit and listen for an hour and a half, if we fit that format. Works every time!
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