Literacy, Past Workshops

The How & Why of Reading Aloud to Children


Workshop held at Oasis Baby Bridge the Gap School in Cosmo City, Johannesburg

22 May 2019

An inspiring, meaningful and heartfelt morning was spent with the teachers from the Oasis Baby Bridge the Gap School, as well as a few teachers and principals from the local community. We were also joined by three young ladies who live locally and who are determined to get into teaching as a career.

The idea behind the workshop was to motivate, support and inspire these teachers to use the magic of READING ALOUD to grow the literacy levels of the children in their care, as effectively as possible, while developing & fostering a love of books & reading.

Our morning was filled with discussing / demonstrating the following:

  • Why should we read aloud to kids?
  • The process of introducing a new book or story that creates EXCITEMENT
    • Pre-reading strategies
    • Prediction
    • Drawing out known vocabulary
  • Reading the story & how to create MAGIC
    • Building excitement & interest through intonation & body language
    • Maintaining interest & engagement through questions & participation
    • Introducing new vocabulary
    • Linking new information with existing knowledge
    • Creating opportunities for repetition & discussion
  • After reading
    • End on a high note.
    • Always tell learners how much you enjoyed reading to them.
    • Compliment the learners on their behaviour & engagement levels.
    • Reading must be a feel-good activity and must be associated with positive things.
  • Extension activities
    • Extension activity: Discuss what happened in the story.
    • Extension activity: Allow learners to retell the story or parts of the story.
    • Extension activity: Bring in critical & analytical thinking by
      • asking learners to give their opinion regarding what one of the characters says or does
      • asking learners to say why they loved, liked, felt neutral to or hated the story giving reasons for their answers
      • ask learners what in their opinion a character could have done differently to change the outcome of the story
      • ask learners if they can think of ways that this story can be linked or likened to real life
    • Extension activity: All learners to draw their favourite characters from the story and then to present them to the class with a verbal description.
    • Extension activity: Stop before the end of the story and come up with your own endings.
    • Extension activity: Rewriting the end of the story even if you know what happens in the book / choose a different ending.
  • Why children love to reread stories over and over and why this is important.
  • How can you get something new out of a story every time you read it?
  • How frequently should children be read to?

Nyameka Ngqondi, one of the current teachers at Oases Baby Bridge the Gap School, identified the need to start a school for children who are excluded from local schools for various reasons. Oases Baby Bridge the Gap School fills a unique need for about 20 children. I was so impressed by how enthusiastic and well behaved the learners were and how passionate the teachers are. It made me all the more pleased to be able to conduct this workshop with them.

We ended our day by forming break-away groups and each teacher took a small group of children out into the sunshine and had the chance to read a book aloud to the learners while implementing what they had seen and heard. It was heartwarming to see the children upon their knees, clamoring around the teachers, completely transfixed by the stories being read to them. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful morning of learning & discovery.

To see the passion and drive demonstrated by the attending teachers & community members showed me, yet again, how much talent & commitment there is out there in South Africa. It also highlighted how many well-intentioned, yet invisible, individuals we have, doing great work out in our local communities, here in Johannesburg and across the country. They need recognition and a huge appreciative pat on the back as their jobs are hard and often thankless.

If you would like to find out more about upcoming workshops, please click HERE. Alternatively, if you would like to book a workshop to be presented at your organization, please contact Lianne at

Articles, Literacy

Why we all need to start reading aloud to our kids | Keisha Siriboe | TEDxWanChai

Keisha Siriboe addresses her audience on reading aloud to kids.

I have such fond memories from my childhood of my mom reading aloud to us girls. I can still smell her, feel the fluff of her jersey against my cheek, sense the up and down motion evoked by the expression in her voice. There were three of us and we’d fight to be on either side of her, closest to her. Being the oldest child I usually had to give way to one of my younger sisters. But this gave me the opportunity to gaze at my mom while she read, taking in the effort she put in with her eyes, facial expression, speed, volume, tone and variation. All of this created the magic that everyone speaks about in relation to books. There is no doubt that it starts with the bonding that takes place.

In her TEDx Talk, Keisha Siriboe reflects on this magic when saying, “The power of parent-child reading aloud is more than just the skill, it’s the bonding and if anyone has experienced being read to or reading to a child, there is something, and I’m gonna use an unscientific term to describe it. It is absolutely magical if you experience enjoying a story with a child.”

Keisha states what we already know which is that the research indicates that 15 minutes of reading aloud a day is the minimum amount of time you need to invest in order to start seeing some outcomes. However, Keisha wants us to go beyond just these 15 minutes, which is a good start and talk about the power of reading in a way that ties back into 21st-century skills, which is currently one of the hot topics of the day.

Keisha Siriboe also stresses the role of parents & child themed books by stressing that there is no better way to introduce children to the world than through a children’s book that presents the child being a child, which is something they relate to. She also puts emphasis on the fact that there cannot be anything better than being taught by someone you love more than anyone in this world, a parent, in what should be the safest place in the world, the home.

Her call to action asking us to build a bridge that connects our children to a better tomorrow by reading to them today if a challenge that is applicable to all countries, not just Hong Kong.


Why we all need to start reading aloud to our kids | Keisha Siriboe | TEDxWanChai

Further reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Articles, Literacy, Reading

Why we should all be reading aloud to children – all children | Rebecca Bellingham | TEDxYouth@BeaconStreet

Rebecca Bellingham, dressed in a blue dress, addresses her audience.

In her TED Talk, Rebecca Bellingham tells us, “As a teacher and a mom, I cannot think of many things that matter as much as reading aloud to our kids, at home and at school.” I completely agree with her. Being read aloud to stimulates the brain, triggers the imagination, transports you to another world, broadens your horizons with experiences that you may never personally have, triggers your emotions, allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes and escape your own life, if only briefly. It is magic!

Rebecca passionately states, “Reading aloud gives kids a special kind of access to the transformative power of a story and the experience of what real reading is all about, which is to deeply understand, to think, to learn and discuss big ideas about the world, about the lives of others and about ourselves.” If you are reading aloud to your child daily, as you should be, these BIG conversations occur naturally. They are so important to the process of growing up.

What struck me most in this talk is that she puts forward the idea that reading aloud to groups of children makes it possible for some children to “get inside a book” in a way that they’ve never done before. For some children, this is their only opportunity to “get inside a book” and to see that movie inside their head. If no one is reading to them at home, this is it.

“Getting inside a book” is one of those very important stepping stones to reading. Children eventually want to control when and how they have this experience for themselves and therefore are motivated to pick up a book they may be dying to read because their friends are talking about it.

Reading aloud could be a catalyst to life-long reading and high literacy levels. The power of reading aloud to children cannot be underestimated.


Why we should all be reading aloud to children | Rebecca Bellingham | TEDxYouth@BeaconStreet

Further reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Articles, Literacy, Reading

The Joy of Reading Aloud to ‘M’

An elephant on a patch of grass holding a sign and a giraffe driving a car indicating the use of imagination when reading books.

It is not just children that need to be read to.

I read aloud to ‘M’ three times a week. This is one of the most precious times during my week and I wish I had more time to offer her. We are currently reading a book about Sawubona animal sanctuary that is being taken away from the family that founded it. It is about the relationship between a young girl, her grandmother, a game warden, the animals they care for and the man who is trying to take away everything that they have built. I read this story aloud to her.

As I read ‘M’ is riveted, entranced, filled with wonder and oozing need. I feel it pulling at me. I don’t think anyone has ever read to her before. Can you imagine that? Watching her unfold as we go through this reading experience together is magical to me. Although she is a woman, not a child, she generally sits facing me and while I read she does not take her eyes off me. I realized this the second time I read to her. I looked up after two long pages to find her frowning in concentration and focus, leaning forward, her eyes intense and wanting, pulling at me. By the end of our reading session she stretched as if coming out of a long dream. She was grinning uncontrollably and could not stop saying how much she had enjoyed it. She did not want to stop.

Over time, her intensity and anxiety around understanding has lessened and now I find her face more relaxed and fluid, her expression changing along with mine, her comprehension growing. I stop every now and again to check that she understands or to explain a word or phrase that I feel needs clarification. We move on.

Hooked on books

To this day ‘M’ still watches my face like a hawk, for any change in expression, trying to eek out every bit of understanding that she can. But now there are added emotions – WONDER, ANTICIPATION, BREATHLESSNESS for what comes next, PLEASURE and JOY. This is where I wanted to be with her. In a place where she experiences the sheer PLEASURE of reading and storytelling – the MAGIC and the DESPERATENESS of needing to know what comes next. This is what turns people into readers. She is hooked. For life. After years of teaching, I know the signs.

‘M’ is a young South African woman who did not finish her education. Sadly, she was forced to drop out of school very early due to family circumstances. We all know this South African tale very well and we know, even better, the consequences thereof.

‘M’ moved to Jozi a while back and has just started her working career, following in her mother’s footsteps. The only problem is that she struggles a great deal with communication, which means she will always struggle to get work and to keep a job. I decided to offer her reading classes as she lives in close proximity. I have discovered that she is very keen to learn and to perhaps complete her schooling at a later stage.

‘M’ has turned out to be an avid learner. She practices reading at home even when she hasn’t been given homework. We took a trip to the library, a first-time experience for her, and she became a member there and then. She has been a bit intimidated by the staff, as the librarians are quite stern, but I think she is now feeling confident enough to visit on her own. She loves the fact that she can go shopping for books for free.

Playing it forward

What is important to note though is that in teaching, reading aloud & doing remedial reading with ‘M’, I know that I am not teaching just one person. She is young and does not yet have children, but I know that when she does have children she will ensure that they also join the library. She will set an example by reading herself. She will be a mother that passionately reads to her kids. I know that she will read to them every single day that she possibly can. I know that she knows that this could change the trajectory of a person’s life. What we are doing in our lessons now is going to seep into the future, develop a life of its own, and have a positive impact on more than one individual’s life. ‘M’ knows the value, magic and joy of reading to someone and the power that it has. She will use that power going forward.

Many people regard reading aloud as something that you only do with very young children. This is absolutely not true. Research tells us that there is much value in reading aloud to older children – even those in their late teens. Truth be told, we all enjoy a good story.

The benefits of reading aloud

Reading aloud to someone develops their auditory skills and builds and grows vocabulary and comprehension. It is an integral part of becoming a fluent reader and a literate person. Therefore, if an adult has not learned to read it is really important that they are read to by someone. This way they can be exposed to words and phrases that they are not yet able to read for themselves. Having opportunities to build & expand vocabulary is just as important and being able to read. This together with Buddy Reading (Phono-Graphix terminology advocated by Jenny Taylor of Read for Africa), where you support a learner who is reading aloud, you can make a world of difference to a persons literacy levels in a short space of time.

The befits of reading aloud to children, tweens, teens and adults

  • Positive modeling of pronunciation
  • Positive modeling of tone, intonation and expression
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Improves comprehension
  • Improves listening skills
  • It helps with discussing difficult issues with older kids
  • It’s a way to work through the classics with older kids
  • It’s a way to introduce different genres with older kids
  • It sparks curiosity
  • It contributes to a thirst for knowledge & learning
  • It’s good for bonding
  • It is very satisfying and enjoyable
  • It is a stress relief for older kids

The challenge

If every literate person in South African could take on one fellow illiterate or semi-literate South African in their immediate environment, and humbly dedicate 1-2 hours a week to improving their literacy levels by reading to them, we could, despite our Government and a broken education system, make an enormous change in our country. Building a literate nation cannot be left up to our teachers and a few volunteers. The task is too great for them as this requires many many hours of one-to-one time and teachers in South Africa do not have that luxury, unfortunately. It needs to be done on a massive scale, with everyone who is capable of reading, playing their part.


Further Reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.