Read Alouds Popular with Parents and Teachers
One of the most important things to keep in mind when revising a picture book is that it needs to be easy to read aloud. Usually picture books are read to kids by adults. If you have to read the same thing over and over and over — and over again, then you learn to appreciate a smoothly written and fun text.
How to Create a Read Aloud Friendly Picture Book
- Read it aloud. It seems obvious, but the first step is to read the text aloud. Over and over. Make sure you never stumble on a phrase, never have to second guess where to take a breath. Revise until it is smooth and fluid. Rhythm is important here, not necessarily poetry, but just a lively sense of rhythm. If your writing seems boring, check your sentence lengths to make sure there is lots of variety.
- Plan for an interactive story. Use a refrain or chorus that kids can quickly learn and chime in on when you get to that part. For example, in my book, 19 Girls and Me, kids learn to finish the line, “Until. . . ‘Lunch,’ called Mrs. Ray.” I think it’s part of what put the picture book on the K-1 Read Aloud America list of recommended books. Study books from their list, which is broken down by age levels, as examples of what to do right.
- Study award winning books. Besides the list above, also study winners of the E.B. White Read Aloud award, given by the Association of Booksellers for Children. One of my favorites is the 2004 winner, Skippy Jon Jones by Judith Bryon Schachner. It has great audience participation, great rhythm and is lots of fun. And the success of that first book has created a cottage industry with many new stories, books and products.
- Put yourself in the adult reader’s shoes. Think hard about the adult who will have to read this picture book multiple times. Is the topic one that can bear repeating? Is the language fun? Do the words roll off the tongue? Does the book foster the adult/child relationship?
Taking the time to build in that read-aloud factor is the difference between a picture book that sells and drops within two years and one that becomes a real classic.
Read a selection of picture books and try to decide if they are read-aloud friendly. What could you change to make them more read-aloud friendly?
How to Write a Children’s Picture Book Available Now!