Presenting a Children’s Book to the Children
How to Take them into your Story
Seeing the children amazed by your story, laughing with your characters, and lifting their hands to take part in the tale is the best reward for a children’s writer. That’s why I love presenting my children’s books live to the kids. By the way, it is also the best way to sell your children’s book. Well, this is true only if the presentation works, obviously.
I am Italian and for years I’ve been presenting my 3 children’s books to hundreds of kids in the 1st-5th grades in schools, libraries, and events in Italy. Now I live in Austin, Minnesota, and my last children’s book, “The little girl behind the mirror”, has just been translated in English and published, and I started presenting it in the US as well. I’m happy to share with you what I learnt along the way.
First of all, engage the children in your story. Remember that they won’t quietly listen out of courtesy, if they don’t give a hoot about what you are saying. This can be tough, but gives you an immediate feedback on how your presentation is going.
It is much easier to get the attention of the children if you tell them a story rather than reading it. Do not start your book presentation by reading a wonderful extract of your story for 10 minutes. If you lose them there they won’t hear you anymore later.
Look at them and talk to them. Start telling them your story, take them in your world and make sure that they are with you. Once they are in, they will be ready to listen to your reading.
Telling instead of reading is very important, especially at the beginning, but I would never avoid reading my story completely. Children need to hear the book to know the story and you have to show them that is worth doing. You are also conveying the message that reading is fun, and the teachers will be grateful for that.
Choose a part of your book that is dynamic, where characters speak, where you can imagine the scene, where something funny, strange, magic, or fascinating is happening. Use different voices to distinguish the characters, and modulate the tone, the volume and the speed according to the rhythm of the story. Read with passion.
Take with you something to show, so that they can also “see” the story. The easiest thing to do is to print a bigger version of some illustrations of the book to show them characters and places when you tell or read about them. But if you really want to catch their attention and leave something they will remember you need way more.
In my last book, the madman of the village always carries a wooden box where he keeps a secret. I recreated that box and I always show it during my presentations. In the woods of the village there is a magical spring that speaks through its reflections. I took a mirror, glued little stones around and painted trees to picture the pond. Children get thrilled by it. Think about places, characters, objects of your story and use your imagination to recreate some of them to show the kids.
If you just talk, read, and show you will likely lose the children’s attention. More importantly, you won’t know if they are following and you risk they won’t be able to understand what comes next. Stop often and interact with them. Ask what they think about a new character, ask if they have noticed a little element mentioned in the text, ask them to guess what will follow. Find different ways to encourage their participation. It’s really rewarding to see many hands up to answer.
The interaction could get immersive and that makes the difference. Make them do something regarding the story. For instance, I always ask the children to imagine what they would put inside such a special box if they had one. They write their idea and put the note inside my box.
You may also recreate a scene of your story asking the kids to volunteer. If they are engaged in the story all the class will raise a hand to participate. With my book, I choose a volunteer to represent the little girl protagonist of the story. She stands in front of the mirror (the spring of the village) and answers the questions of the other character of the scene. I also draw a brown mark on her cheek, that is the trait of the protagonist, and this alone is so much fun that no kid will be inattentive.
Finally, enjoy your presentation. You are taking the children into the world of your story and this is just wonderful! Have fun while presenting and they will have fun as well.