Reading aloud technique—five tips for improvement

Here are some tips to improve your child’s technique when reading aloud. Speech teachers commence with correct posture and book position, so that’s where I’ll begin in this article.

Posture and book position

In the two images above, Sameule Vaccaro of Albury, Grade 5 Speech and Drama student of Jan Skinner, demonstrates correct and incorrect reading posture and book position.

In the image showing good technique:

  • The book is positioned away from Sam’s body, and quite high (but not so high that it covers any part of his face).
  • Sam’s face is fully visible to his audience.
  • His excellent posture makes possible deep breathing and good voice projection.
  • Eye contact with his audience is easy, as Sam can quickly lift his eyes to his audience and then back to his book.
  • Sam holds the book in his left hand, so that if he needs to turn the page it can be easily done with his right hand.

In the image showing poor technique:

  • The book is positioned too close to Sam’s body, and is too low.
  • Sam’s face is not visible to his audience.
  • The book position and posture could restrict Sam’s breathing and his voice is directed towards his feet, not towards his listeners.
  • Eye contact with his audience is more difficult, as he has to lift his head, not just his eyes.
  • Sam’s cramped posture could make turning the page look awkward.

Introducing the book and author

I recommend commencing readings with something like this:

‘A reading from Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, Chapter 6’ then pausing before commencing the reading.

Pace

Children often feel that reading quickly means reading well. Parents should be aware of children reading rapidly, as it can increase pressure on the reader and can result in a lack of fluency. Remember that listeners need time to take in the message. Pace, of course, needs to be increased and decreased depending on the content, but generally I recommend encouraging children not to rush, and to use the pauses at the ends of sentences and paragraphs.

Eye contact

When you are reading aloud, there will be a person or persons listening. So to make that important link with your audience, eye contact is essential. This is difficult for young readers, as the eyes need to be ahead of the words being spoken. This takes practice. I find that the easiest approach for young readers is to look up for the last phrase or few words at the ends of paragraphs or sentences. The pause which naturally occurs after each of these allows the reader to find his/her place again on the page.

Yes, I have mentioned practice, so this is my final tip.

Practise each day

Hopefully all primary and secondary students do some reading each day outside of school time. I ask my Speech students to spend the first 5-10 minutes of that reading time:

  • standing up in front of a mirror
  • using correct posture and book position
  • breathing deeply and projecting their voices, as if to an audience
  • introducing the reading appropriately
  • incorporating eye contact where possible
  • reading a few pages aloud, and then reading the same pages again for improvement in fluency, eye contact and expression.

I hope you will find these tips to be helpful. Further articles on public speaking will be posted in the future.

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