By Miranda Paul
Summer's here! For librarians, that means big crowds during the day and more programming for kids. Many of the librarians I know are always on the hunt for a good read-aloud.
Read-alouds are my favorite kind of book to write. It's absolutely magical to watch a gym full of kids when we act out Water is Water together, or play the game in Whose Hands Are These? Read-alouds are great because they are appropriate for younger kids who can't yet read, or older kids who like to perform. Good read-aloud picture books lend themselves to movement, collaboration, or extension activities. (Perfect for summer storytimes!)
This summer, I have two new read-aloud picture books out--Trainbots and 10 Little Ninjas. Throughout summer and fall, my read-aloud books assist me in creating entertaining and engaging school visits. They make my job (or a librarian's job) easy!
If you're working on a picture book for kids, here are some tips that might help you craft an engaging read-aloud.
1) Read your book aloud. It's a no-brainer. Let others read your manuscript aloud too. Set your words to music, even, to make sure you're being consistent and that your words flow well. If you do, it might actually become a song!
2) Pace the story appropriately. Create a dummy if you need do, and don't worry if you can't draw. Think about where page breaks may fall. Study the picture book form to know how your story will function as a physical object in someone else's hands. A good read-aloud doesn't get bogged down with scenes that are too long or pass too quickly.
Example: In Trainbots, I chose to pace each scene with two lines that make a clear chugga-chugga rhythm whenever the action was moving forward. Trains make a very consistent sound and rhythm, so I built on that and then interrupted the steady rhythm in places where the scene "switches gear."
3) Add whimsy or wonder. Even with a scientific or nonfiction subject, fun and lightheartedness is always welcome.
4) Build anticipation. Similar to being clever and purposeful with page breaks, make sure that your read-aloud isn't only a list of concepts or a group of stanzas that could go in any order.
Example 1: In Whose Hands Are These? I started with easier occupations, and the riddles get more difficult on purpose. Kids playing the game know they have to anticipate the rhyme as well as scour the illustrations for clues. The classroom scene is purposefully placed last to create a "hits home" effect.
Example 2: Although the countdown in 10 Little Ninjas builds anticipation all on it's own, you'll notice that as the numbers dwindle down, the words get sleepier, too.
5) Finish strong. Your ending doesn't have to be loud or bold, but it should provide delight, satisfaction, resolution, or a clever surprise. The ideal ending will have kids cheering, "Read it again!!"
Happy summer reading, everyone!
Miranda Paul is an award-winning picture book author who has been repeatedly noted for her ability to craft delightful and interactive read-alouds. Her titles include One Plastic Bag, Water is Water, Whose Hands Are These? and Trainbots. Forthcoming works include 10 Little Ninjas (August 2016), Blobfish Throws a Party (Spring 2017) and Are We Pears Yet? (Fall 2017). Miranda is a frequent visitor at schools and libraries around the country, serves as the Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™, and volunteers for SCBWI and Books for Africa. She believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more about her and her books at www.mirandapaul.com.
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