Wednesday is "World Read Aloud Day" sponsored by LitWorld and therefore I will be spending much of the day at Books of Wonder in NYC in celebration. All day they will have activities for kids, including authors and other members of the community reading stories aloud. Its guaranteed to be a really special day.
I got to thinking, what are the components necessary for a story to have "Read Aloud-ability"? As Picture Book writers we are constantly striving for this. We want to be that book that kids want to hear over and over again...but how do you create such a story?
Obviously liking a story or not and wanting it to be read aloud is partly subjective. But, as a writer it is worth looking at some of the building blocks of the best stories to read aloud. Below I have laid out "4 Guideposts to a Book with Read-Aloudability".
1) Rhythm ~ a story that has good read-aloudability will be easy to read and will flow for the reader. I think of a number of Dr. Seuss books, although to have rhythm books do not have to rhyme. Included in the rhythm would be stories like "Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown. Through the repetition of certain sentence structures the story provides a very rhythmic telling.
2) Pacing ~ a story that creates a wonderful build with each page turn. The payoff when the page is turned might be humorous, scary or satisfying, but it should never be predictable. Using anticipation and surprise workds well, too. Think of Bob Shea's "Dinosaur Vs" series and a little subtly, Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are". Both stories utilize the page turns nicely. Pacing can also be used to relax the child, such as in "Goodnight, Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown.
3) Provides opportunity for discussion ~ remember that picture books are meant to be a shared experience between kids and the adult reader. Therefore, picture books can (although not always) raise questions safely. Books like "Julius, the Baby of the World" by Kevin Henkes and "Miss Nelson is Missing" by Harry Allard both deal with some big issues on a lighter note...but allow room for kids and parents/adults to have a conversation about such issues.
4) Illustration Discoveries ~ when talking about picture books one must take illustrations into consideration. Illustrations that provide lots to look at allow a book to be experienced over and over again and perhaps something new will be seen each time. When faced with the "Again!" at the end of a story I usually like to just thumb through the book and say "Can you see the yellow hat? How about the cow?" This allows the book to be enjoyed on a different level and provides fun for both the reader and child.
On March 7th the world with be celebrating the art of the Read Aloud. Make sure to share one of your favorites with someone special.
Oh...and Happy Writing!