All emerging readers need extra practice with their fluency. One of the most fun ways to work on this is through acting out plays. In Reader’s Theater, actors have a script to hold onto the whole time. Instead of worrying about memorizing, the actors can focus on reading the text with expression. Making the story come alive makes the text more meaningful for the students.
Reader’s Theater is popular in many classrooms, and luckily there are plenty of websites** where you can find scripts so that you can do Reader’s Theater at home. There are often several characters in each play, so it’s best to do this with most or all members of your family if possible. Not only will it be a fun family bonding experience, but you as the adult will be able to model expressive and fluent reading to your children.
When picking a play, it’s important to get input from your child. If at all possible, let him pick the play. The more interested he is in the play itself, the more willing he will be to participate and get the most out of the experience. It’s perfectly fine if your child picks a story that you are all already familiar with. It will help aid in comprehension. It’s also okay if he picks a play that might be slightly below his reading level. It’s better to stick to words he’s comfortable with so that he can focus on reading and speaking more expressively.
Once you’ve picked the play, it’s helpful to prep a bit before beginning the theatrical experience. If possible, print out copies of the script for each participating member of your family. Give each actor a different color highlighter and have her highlight only her speaking parts. (Younger children may need help with this.) Allow time for each actor to silently read through her highlighted part. This is a good time for them to ask for helping sounding out any particularly challenging words.
When performing the play, it’s important for you to model good reading/acting skills. Be sure to read slowly and with expression and a strong voice. This is also a good time to reinforce to your child the different punctuation marks and how they affect how you say a sentence. If your child speaks too quickly or softly, it’s okay to stop the play to remind them to speak more clearly.
It would be great if you could have a few audience members there (younger siblings who can’t yet read are especially good for this, as are grandparents or friends). It’s so important for your child to get practice reading out loud in front of others. It’s also fun to record the play on video to watch afterwards.
You may very well find that the whole family likes to engage in Reader’s Theater. It could become a weekly family ritual. The more your children have practice with Reader’s Theater, the more fluent and expressive a reader they will become.
** For example: