Tips for Reading Out Loud

Sharing words of story connects people in a powerful way. And as anyone who has ever listened to David Sedaris knows, stories read by their author take on an extra dimension of life. I love reading to groups regardless of who wrote the story, and I especially enjoy reading my own work. 

My love of reading to others was sparked by Mrs. Schmidt, the third of my string of four first-grade teachers (we moved a lot that year). She insisted the Blue Birds read “with expression.” I loved it! From that day on, I read to anyone who would sit still and listen — sister, brother, classmates, children, grandchildren. Today I read mostly to classes and writing groups.

Most recently, I read one of my stories for the Talent Night event at a Road Scholar program in New Hampshire. To my horror, I forgot to take a copy of the story with me, so I had to rewrite it before I could read it. But read it I did, and I’m still basking in the warm glow of appreciation. I highly recommend this experience to others. 

On November 17 the life story writing group at our local library is going to present A Festival of Life Stories for the public to celebrate National Life Writing Month. Not everyone takes to public reading like a duck to water, and many are nervous. Below are tips I’m sharing with them, and perhaps you’ll also find them useful:
  • Print a reading copy of your story in a serif font with larger-than-usual type and wider line spacing. I recommend using TimesNewRoman as your font, sized 14 pt or larger, depending on your eyesight. Bold type may also be a help. Set the line-spacing to 1.5 for this special copy. 

  • If you stand to read without a lectern, hold a colorful folder of piece of stiff cardboard behind your pages to prevent them from fluttering in unsteady hands.

  • Read your story aloud at home. Whenever your tongue says one thing and the words say another, edit the document to match your tongue. This helps the words slide out more smoothly.

  • Read your story aloud at home. Read the final draft aloud to yourself, preferably in front of a mirror. Practice using lots of drama and inflection, like the librarian at Story Hour. Listen to Books on CD for examples.

  • Read your story aloud to one or more other people — family member, friend or reading group.

  • Read your final draft aloud at least six times to master it. Even though I’ve been reading to groups for decades, I practiced that most recent story six times before the show. It made a difference! It allowed me to frequently lift my eyes from the page to gaze out at the audience, using my finger to mark my place.
With this rehearsal, you may still feel nervous, but your preparation should pay off, and you’ll sound like a pro. 

Write now: pick one of your favorite stories and read it to someone. Then write about your feelings and thoughts before and after you read. Was it enjoyable? Why not? What might prevent you from enjoying this experience? What could you do to remove this obstacle? 


Kathleen Pooler said...

These are great tips ,Sharon. I enjoy reading my writing out loud too. My words come alive to me when I share them with others.

Anonymous said...

The first story I had published in my local newspaper garnered a list of responses that reached thirty-three in a short time. Yes, I kept a list - in amazement and appreciation. The story went on to other audiences. I could not speak it so others did so for me, so I would not be embarrassed by becoming tearful. What surprised me was that when others read it, they choked in my stead. That was when I knew the power of combining words.
~ JoAnn Melton