Once Upon a Time…Tips to Engage Kids During Story Time

Reading out loud to kids has been recognized as the single most important activity that leads to literacy acquisition. That’s why, if you have written a children’s book, a book reading with kids is a great way to promote literacy in children and to promote your newly published book.

Now, it may seem simple: You sit in front of a group of kids and read the words of the children’s book that you’ve written. However, to hold a memorable story time event, there’s more to it than that! When reading to a group of children, you want to be able to catch – and hold –their attention!

Take a look at these five tips and keep them in mind at your next book reading to help engage your audience!

Introduction – This is your chance to catch your young audience’s attention. Start with the title of your book and a brief overview of the story. Be careful not to divulge too much information; just give away enough to spark their collective curiosity. At the end of your introduction, depending on the age of your audience, consider asking them a question about how they think the story will end. This could help to keep their attention throughout the entire reading so at the end they can see if their ending was correct.

Questions – Before you begin reading, encourage the kids to ask questions throughout story time. This will allow them to actively be engaged with the words of your book and the progression of the plot. Also, assure them that if they are confused or puzzled by a word that is used, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask what it means. This has potential to open up a great learning opportunity for the children to increase their vocabularies.

Depending on your book and your intended audience, consider asking these open-ended questions after you’ve read your book to initiate a conversation with the kids.

  • Which character did you like the most? Why?
  • What did the story make you think about?

Voice – Enhance your story through the way that you use your voice. Vary your pitch, tone, speed, volume and intonation depending on what is happening in the story. Additionally, using different voices for different characters and expressing emotions through your voice will keep your audience intrigued and interested.

Point – Just as you can use your voice to point out important parts of the story, you can also point to the illustrations in your book. This will allow you to show the children the connections and associations between the various elements of the story and how they relate to each other. By pointing at these illustrations, you can visually connect the dots of your story which can help your audience gain a better understanding.

Activities – Get the kids involved with the story! Encourage them to cheer for the protagonist, boo for the antagonist, or clap when good triumphs over evil. Providing them with keyword-action pairings can help drive listening, engagement and participation.

Consider extending story time beyond reading the book. For example, follow-up activities are a great way to help the kids translate the story that they just heard into their own words. Perhaps you could engage them with story re-telling or ask them to draw their favorite part of the story.

Another great way to keep your book in the minds of the children and their parents is to consider passing out leave behinds such as bookmarks that include your book’s information. Also, don’t forget to bring copies of your book to the event in case a parent wants to buy one – you can give them a signed copy!

These are just a few examples of how you can keep your young audience engaged and thinking about the book.

If you are planning on hosting a book reading event for children, keep in mind these five tips to help get you started and to put your best foot forward. As an author of a children’s book, odds are you are a creative person, so channel some of that creativity that you used to write your book into telling the story that fills your book’s pages!



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