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National Storytelling Week: How To Instil Read-Aloud Confidence In Primary Pupils

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” – Phillip Pullman

We all love a story.

Whether it helps us to understand our world or escape it completely, stories are a source of pleasure for readers and writers of all ages; we simply never tire of hearing new ones.

To help pencils to scribble in your primary school classroom, National Storytelling Week takes place from 26th January to 2nd February 2019, as organised by The Society for Storytelling. With thousands of events taking place all over the country, it’s the perfect time to encourage reluctant storytellers to share their creative ideas.

But there’s just one problem – are the children in your class lacking confidence when reading aloud?


Children are filled to the brim with terrific tales – but turning ‘reading with confidence’ into ‘storytelling tenacity’ can be more of a challenge.

In KS1, the ability to read aloud can vary from sounding-out words, to eventually presenting full sentences.child reading alone in a sunny library

Nipping any nervousness in the bud will serve children well for years to come; not to be overlooked by any stretch, oral storytelling can build fluency, boost comprehension and engage critical thinking skills.

So, what’s the best way to get tentative tongues wagging?


1. Demonstrate that it’s okay to make mistakes.

If we did everything perfectly first time, schools would be pretty empty; but getting the average seven-year-old to understand this philosophy can take some work. 

Isn’t stumbling over your read-aloud sentences just plain embarrassing – no matter how old you are?

‘It’s Okay to Make Mistakes’ by Todd Parr is a child-focused tale on the importance of taking chances and trying new things; even when making honest mistakes is inevitable. 

As the book explains, “it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes. Everyone does – even grown-ups! That’s how we learn.”

In fact, plenty of grown-ups could benefit from hearing this story, too.


2. Don’t overcorrect.

young girl reading to her teddy bears, outside on a blanketIf a child was clearly struggling to read a word aloud, you would of course assist; it’s your instinct as a teacher.

However, when small mistakes or omissions are made – don’t feel too uneasy about overlooking them in the name of confidence, especially if the child hasn’t noticed.

You can hone their skills further once reading aloud feels like second-nature. 


3. Encourage reading to younger children.

Would some of the children in your class be welcome to read aloud in an EYFS classroom? There’s nothing more confidence-building than being the ‘big kid’!

Ask your readers to pick a story that they remember enjoying at the same age, and just watch that love of literature flow. 

The younger children won’t be critical enough to pick up on many errors and, with a bit of luck, the older children will quickly adapt to their role as the wise, elder storyteller. 


4. Avert your gaze.

You might be used to having 30 pairs of beady eyes watching your every move, but let’s be honest – it’s an acquired skill.boy-2604853 1920 1

Although you may be blessed with some exhibitionists in your year group (who can’t help but turn heads in the middle of assembly), many children find excessive eye contact bothersome, especially when they’re trying to achieve something tricky. 

Is there a printout of text that the other children in the group can follow, while a child reads it aloud? This can allow time to practice oral storytelling skills without too much stage fright. 

Similarly, you could also suggest read-aloud tasks for at home, while their parental audience are busy doing other things – like cooking, cleaning or driving to school. 

You’ll soon have a read-aloud reveller on your hands, even if the early recipient of this talent is simply the family dog (we hear that they’re the best listeners!).


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