The idea to improve my daughter’s literacy skills with reader’s theater came to me after I noticed her struggle and hatred for reading. My goal was to improve her literacy skills, specifically in reading. However, improvement wouldn’t come unless she first learned how to enjoy reading. Instead of focusing on the technical side of reading, I decided to focus on her LOVE of reading. My thoughts were that if I could give her a love for reading, then she would read more. The more she read, the more practice she would get. With consistent guided practice, her reading skills would improve over time. But it all begins with a love for reading.
To give her a love for reading, I decided to purchase reader’s theater plays. I ordered the reader’s theater plays on Amazon, hoping and praying that my idea would actually work! I found that over time (about 6 months), it did! My daughter LOVES to read now. In fact, this afternoon she read an entire book on history (it was thick!) without me making her.
Here is why reader’s theater improves literacy, and how I applied these ideas while teaching my daughter.
Reader’s Theater Encourages a “Talking” Style of Reading
First, reader’s theater encourages a “talking” style of reading. There are no “he said” “she said” lines to slow the fluency of the reader’s words. The reader’s focus is on one line at a time. The reader focuses more on “talking” the line and not “reading” the line. As I coached my daughter in reading, I told her that reading ought to sound like talking. I would read from the script and show her what I meant, then I would say, “Just talk the words.” Afterwards, I’d give her the script to try “talking” the words by herself.
Reader’s Theater Encourages Visualization and Comprehension
Not only does reader’s theater encourage a “talking” style of reading, it also encourages visualization which leads to comprehension. Visualizing (or pretending) is a fancy word that simply means to put oneself entirely in the character’s shoes, and pretend to be them completely. The reader imagines where the character is, what she looks like, and how she talks. The more the reader imagines or “sees” the words that she reads, the more those words will take on meaning. When words take on meaning, the reader begins to comprehend. Visualization (pretending) helps the reader comprehend what they are reading. As I coached my daughter in reading, I told her to “see” or “imagine” everything that she read. I would have her tell me what the character looked like, where the character was, and how the character talked. We would have fun imagining the scene (Seriously, this is the FUN PART! Use your imagination!). The more she visualized (pretended) the reading, the more she comprehended it.
Reader’s Theater Requires the Reader to Read Out Loud
Reading reader’s theater also improves reading skills because it’s done out loud. Imagine going to a play where all the characters read their lines silently. (That would be awkward and weird!) Reader’s theater forces the reader to communicate to an audience-whether the audience is a mom, dad, siblings or grandparents. Reader’s theater forces readers to listen to the sound of their own voice. Reading out loud, they hear what each phonetic sound says, and how the flow of words helps create a complete thought. In reader’s theater, the reader’s goal is to get the audience to “see” what she is reading. As I coached my daughter in reading aloud, I would say, “If a character is sad, then cry when you read those words. If a character is angry, then show the anger with your voice. Get into it.” Then I would say, “Liv, I want you to paint a picture for me when you read those words. If you “see” the story, then I will, too.” At this point, I showed her what I meant by reading out loud with expression. Then I let her try.
Remember It Takes Time and Prayer
Remember, improvement in reading happens over time, not overnight. Have fun pretending with them. Make it exciting. Read it with them out loud. Teach them how to “see” the story in their imagination! Be silly, be excited, and get out of your comfort zone. Reader’s theater will force you and your child to do all of those things. Spend time showing your children how to enjoy reading.
Not only do we need to remember that learning takes time, but we also need to remember to pray. Pray with your children. Ask God to give them a desire to read! Spend time in God’s Word everyday; His Word is our hope. Children will not always FEEL like reading, but we must show them the wonder of getting lost in a story. We cannot allow our children’s attitudes to discourage us. No doubt, there will be a battle of wills, but we must encourage ourselves in the Lord. If we are living in discouragement, how can we ever expect to encourage our children?
I hope this helps and inspires you as you serve the readers in your life. Maybe you have different ways you’ve helped others to improve in reading! I would love to hear about it! Leave your idea in the comments below. The more we share ideas, the more we can help other people succeed! Let me know if you are going to try reader’s theater. If you have questions, leave a comment. I would love to help! I know that not every child learns the same way, but every child can learn! If you find your child struggling with reading, don’t be discouraged! If you find yourself wondering what to do, try including reader’s theater scripts in their reading time.