Learning Writing Through Reading Out Loud

There is something about reading out loud that helps one to better understand a story. As authors, we work hard to use our words to bring our ideas to life. But sometimes it’s difficult when you’re starting out to develop that unique voice that will make a story enjoyable, especially for young children.

As a former elementary school librarian, I found reading out loud to be an excellent teaching tool for me as a writer. If you figure that I read to kids almost every week during the school year for about eight years, that’s a lot of reading, and a lot of learning! But it was a huge benefit because I was able to glean key facts from all those published writers.

Here are three things to help develop your writing by reading out loud:

Look at Structure

When I speak to older children about writing, I like to emphasize that a good story needs an engaging beginning, a plot-driven middle, and a satisfying conclusion. By reading out loud, you can see how an author developed these important elements. These are vital lessons because if you can’t grab one’s attention in the beginning, a reader will lose interest. If there are not enough conflicts, a story cannot move forward, and if your ending doesn’t answer all the questions brought into the book in a pleasing way, you won’t have happy readers.

Listen for Rhythm

Reading out loud helps you to “hear” the cadence of a story. Some books are just fun to read. The words just flow forth from the tongue – and that’s not by accident. Rhyme and rhyme schemes and literary devices such as alliteration and onomatopoeia are great tools to help carry your story along. By reading many picture books out loud, especially those in rhyme, you can see what works and what doesn’t. You can then determine if rhyming works for your story or if regular prose is best.

And if you aren’t good at rhyme, that’s okay! Not everyone can write in iambic pentameter and the like. The point is to glean what you think works best for you and your future stories.

Look at Word Choice

Words are powerful. A picture book author knows that the story he or she developed will most likely be read aloud. So as you are speaking the words, look at the choice of words the writer used. Each one was probably intentional, especially if they are in rhyme.

Dr. Seuss, of course, was famous for his made up words. So was Roald Dahl. And those words are best appreciated when they are read out loud.

We can find plenty of synonyms for most words in our English language. Listen and look at how a word choice can make or break the flow of a story. Do the words cause confusion? Are they hard to pronounce? Do the words tickle the tongue, or leave it tied up in knots? Appreciating the choice of words can help you learn to make every word count!

Words also can paint pictures. Picture books are mostly illustrated by someone other than the author, so an illustrator cannot effectively illustrate if the author doesn’t provide enough word pictures. A lot of children are read to at bedtime. And even though you can show the illustrations, there is nothing like allowing a child to develop his or her own imagination and interpretation – and that is done through words.

Reading aloud is a great way to see what you like or dislike about how an author writes a story. Keep these three points in mind to help you develop your own voice so your stories can shine!

What have you discovered from reading out loud?

Catherine L. Osornio has written inspirational articles for a women’s ministry newsletter, over 200 leveled reader stories for a school’s reading program, fiction and nonfiction articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines, The Declaration of Independence from A to Z, Thunder Comes a Rumblin’, and various work-for-hire projects. A former elementary school librarian, Catherine is passionate about sharing the love of reading. She enjoys cartooning, illustration, and reading kids’ books. Email her at CLOsornio@verizon.net or visit her at www.catherineosornio.com.

4 thoughts on “Learning Writing Through Reading Out Loud

  1. Love your photo of reading out loud! One of the reasons I wanted to write was when I started reading out loud to our sons. Now I get to read out loud to our grandchildren. It’s amazing the books that hold their interest…and don’t. This helps me as I’m writing my own manuscripts.

  2. Great post. As a recently retired teacher-librarian, I participated in countless of read alouds. And, I also read aloud my manuscripts for the reasons you mentioned in your article. Thanks for your expert advice.

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