When I first started reading books aloud, I was a bit nervous. Would I be loud enough? Could I pronounce all the words correctly? Would the group actually listen? Yes, yes and maybe. If I'm quiet, I use a bit more power. If I fumble a word, I laught it off and move on. If they're not listening, maybe the story is a dud today or maybe it's a full moon. I finish the book and move on to the next activity.
Now that I've started to get comfortable with myself and presenting in front of a crowd, my concern has refocused to my voice and how to keep it in good condition. In addition to hosting storytimes at the library, I am a puppeteer with a local puppet troupe. Besides my hands, my voice is a high priority on my list to keep in working order. If you're sharing books on a weekly or daily basis, I urge you to keep your voice in tip top shape. You only get one voice and it takes a long time to repair damaged vocal chords.
I have attended some great voice workshops over the past few years. During...
the Wisconsin Library Association conference in 2008, I attended Pat Seidel's workshop called Powerful Presentations: What Every Presenter Needs To Know. It was a packed session and a fantastic presentation. In addition to walking through presenting, she mentioned tidbits about keeping your voice healthy. One point that stuck in my mind was clearing your throat. Clearning your throat will hurt your throat. It is better to have a glass or bottle of room temperature water close at hand. Ice water feels great, but that will constrict your vocal chords.
Ventriloquists are another great resource for voice saving knowledge. I attended I-Fest (International Festival of Christian Puppetry and Ventriloquism) in 2007. Judy Busch and Steven Parker attended that year and presented workshops on Voice Vitality and Vent Voice Aerobics. Again, the sessions were full and the presentations fantastic! Judy Busch has been a ventriloquist for years and gave great information. Steven Parker is the new voice for Scruff McGruff, the Crime Dog. It was an honor to meet them at I-Fest. Some of their helpful hints include...
Calmness - Pausing - Breathing - Posture - Dairy - Zinc
We all have our favorite books we love to read aloud. Sometimes in the excitement we get louder and faster and raspier. Excitment can be shown through your facial expression and body language. Your voice doesn't have to follow the whole way. Never reach the point where it hurts to talk. If you can't maintain the loudness, go softer. If you can't keep the high or low pitch, try a mellower tone. Voices are great to add to a story, but never use a voice that will hurt your vocal chords.
In conjunction with calmness, pausing and breathing go hand in hand. Take a breath or pause during a page turn, comma, colon and other punctuation marks. Always make sure you have time to breathe!
Posture lets your body breath easily and your voice to project. When I am presenting a book at storytime, I am guilty of slouching. The kids are sitting on the floor while I am sitting on a chair above them. The best way to read would be sitting at their level and straightening out my torso. When the lungs and diaphram are constricted, it is difficult to take that full breath you need for the four sentences on the page.
Lastly, dairy and zinc. Before a session of reading, steer clear of dairy products. Milk and yogurt will coat the vocal chords. Coats are great for the cold weather in the Midwest, but not for your throat. Zinc is a great mineral for helping your throat. Many manufactuers now make throat logenzes with zinc. They're great to pop in after a session of reading.
I will continue to read and puppet, but keep on caring for my voice. It's the only one I will have and I plan to read and puppet for many years to come. I'll be keeping my water near and the ice cubes in the freezer.
More Reading Aloud articles can be found at the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog. Check it out! You'll find booklists, interviews and so much more! It's a great week to share.
More voice tips can be found at Sing Like a Pro.
The puppet can be found at Mr. Anderson's Company.