'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 22 January 2012

How to Maximize your Book Readings to Children with Karen Tyrrell

KBR warmly welcomes author Karen Tyrrell with this guest post on maximising book readings to kids. Whether you're a teacher, librarian, author or parent - you're sure to pick up some great ideas.

Do you have an author gig lined up at a school, library or book store? Want to connect with your young audience from the very start? Grab their attention? Create an interactive atmosphere? Do you yearn to leave them begging for more?

When I was first contacted by schools and libraries to read my Super Space Kids series to kids, I focused on dramatizing gripping excerpts, stimulating the kids' imagination. When you read to young children, it's important you tap into their collective and individual imaginations.

Here are my top 10 secrets for engaging children at a book reading:

  1. Liaise with the library and school for a prime time. Make sure your visit is well-advertised and promoted beforehand. Consider a costume competition with prizes. 
  2. Be ultra organised. Rehearse your book reading and fun activities from beginning to end. Print off photo permission forms for parents to sign. Provide all props including books, worksheets, materials and handouts. Be flexible on the day. Tailor each session to suit the ages and specific needs of the group.
  3. Wear a big smile, a costume, hat and make-up related to your book.
  4. Introduce yourself and your main character by name. Write your name and book on the whiteboard. Give the audience your eye contact. Make everyone feel warmly welcome.
  5. Dramatize your story with voice inflections, whispers, pauses and actions, varying your voice for different characters and emotions. Pause to create tension and effect. 
  6. Make your story reading interactive with actions, chants, and direct involvement from the audience. Build-up to a climactic response at the end. 
  7. Ask the children questions. Create a discussion. Follow up with a writing activity. Structure the children’s writing. Support every writer in the group. 
  8. Leave a lasting impression on the students. Leave them hanging for more of your story. Share your author and writing secrets. Hand out postcards, bookmarks and promos to the students, encouraging them to check your website. 
  9. Take group photos celebrating the event for your website or school and library website. 
  10. Create a promotional glossy brochure filled with photos, details and endorsements for future book readings and writing workshops.

When I first test drove Josh and the IT, I studied the kids' reactions to my new comedy lines. I heard their giggles and spotted their sly grins. For my new suspense sequences, I watched their eyes bulge with concern for Josh and the Super Space Kids.

At Logan North Library in Brisbane, hordes of aliens, space pirates, Jedi knights and super heroes descended there to hear Josh vs Lord Terra, book two of the Super Space Kids series. I delivered the first three chapters, leaving them begging for more … Gee, I miss teaching sometimes!

With my most expressive Josh voice and dramatic actions, I zipped out all my teacher and theatrical resources to keep a lively bunch entertained. After each chapter, the kids stood up, reaching for the stars, and formed a rocket shape with their arms to Blast Off!

I made my audience honorary Super Space Kids, inviting them to punch power into the cosmos, fight evil and save the galaxy from destruction. After the library reading, I judged the most original costumes for super prizes donated by the library including a DVD, colouring books and super strips of space stickers. Cameras flashed. The audience cheered.

Karen Tyrrell is a Brisbane writer for children and grown-ups. Karen writes kids sci-fi chapter books and picture books. She's also a teacher, mental health advocate, blogger and workshop presenter. Find out more at her website