24 June 2018 by Stephanie Henwood
As we near the end of term with my story time sessions (held at Blackwell’s Bookshop of Oxford with Snowflake Books), I begin to reflect upon the experiences I have learnt over these 2 years.
When I was very first asked to read some stories to children I didn’t think that it was for me, but I gave it a go because you never know what opportunities are around the corner. And, as it happened I quite liked it!
It was the earlier days that I really learnt some big lessons in ‘how’ to story read to children and these days I find that putting them into practice has become more like second nature. So, I guess I must have learned a new skill!
It helps that I enjoy the books; The beautifully unique illustrations are encapsulating and the characters each describe their own life lesson which helps to keep the stories familiar and realistic.
With this reflection, I thought that I would share some of the things that I have learned about being a story teller;
Always ‘get to know’ a book before reading it to your live audience. Knowing what is going to happen next helps you to set the scene. For example, with your physical actions or tone of voice.
You might be nervous, you might want to get away, but whizzing through the story is not going to help. You will feel muddled and your audience will lose interest if they can’t keep up.
Allow yourself time to ‘feel’ the story. BREATH and pause.
Being a story teller doesn’t JUST involve sitting on a comfy armchair reading from a book to a small crowd. You are in fact a performer, an artist.
Be creative with the tones of voice, your facial expressions and bodily movements. But most importantly, engage with your audience; Give them the chance to really see the detail of the pictures. Ask them questions. It doesn’t matter if you go off subject a bit if you are keeping them interested and thus entertained.
As I mentioned above, you need to be entertaining. So, leave those insecurities at the door and allow yourself to drift into the characters of the story. Silly noises, funny faces, they’re all welcome and you won’t generally be judged for keeping a bunch of energetic little ones entertained and in one place for half an hour! Parents will thank you, Kids will love you.
Don’t fear for making mistakes either, more often than not it will go unnoticed. Pick yourself up and move along OR better still, learn to laugh at yourself and make a joke of it.
The three stages of Story time
To make a successful session, I believe that there must be 3 clear stages of your story time structure, whether it be 20 minutes or 2 hours long. These are;
The welcome discussion and introduction – You introduce yourself and the story / book and get to know your audience, ask them questions and get them focused on you.
The story – This is the obvious part; You do the story time session but include with it lots of interaction, characteristics, actions and questions.
The Close – Some times it is difficult to end a story or know what to say, make sure you have some idea in mind of how you will finish up and what questions you will ask your audience. I have found that expecting the end will help you to characterise it appropriately otherwise it could come to a sudden finish with an awkward silence.
Always have questions and Thank your audience when you are done. Be sure to hand out any gifts or marketing materials if you have any.
I definitely feel that my own personal experience of Story Telling has helped to improve my confidence of public speaking in general; I will now go to a business meeting and try to see my audience as I do the children and that helps me to relax and be more ‘me’. Which, is often hard in a competitive professional environment.
I also put my new skills into practice at home most days when I read to my 12-month-old daughter at Bed Time. I do adopt a different style for bed time stories at home, with much more intimacy and less action. But my abilities have by far improved as I have been regularly practicing.
I am a firm believer in continuous learning throughout our lives and thus is why I chose to ‘give it a go’ when asked to become a Snowflake Story Teller I will never look back, for the things that it has taught me and the lessons along the way, I feel a much stronger, more confident persona beaming out of me and thank Snowflake Books and the many venue hosts for this fantastic new skill.
If you want to know where to find me and the Snowflake Team, just follow us on Facebook or check out the website for dates and information.