Halloween Stories: The Joy of Reading Aloud
Pumpkin Ghost Telling a Scary Story
Stories for Halloween Time
Are you brave enough to use character voices while you read out loud to your children or students? Or do you suffer from stage fright and are haunted by your reading aloud skills? Do kids prefer anyone but you to tell them a spooky tale? Here are some tips to ‘chisel’ into reading scary stories with conviction, excitement and even some dark humor. Remember... there’s so much at ‘stake!’
As a music teacher and performer, I’ve worked in front of large classes, conducted assemblies with hundreds of students at a time and performed music in front of even more. So that makes me an extrovert, right? Wrong!!
Performing (and storytelling) is for introverts too. I found from my own experience that shyness can be compartmentalized. That is, you can be quite comfortable in one outgoing thing but not another. I enjoy talking to a class full of students but I am a nervous wreck speaking in front of a group of adults. My mind goes blank, my heart thumps, I end up reading from my notes with no embellishments or ad-libs. I’m also very shy at parties, often because it’s too loud for me to relax and carry on conversations.
However, I do love to put on my storyteller hat and recite tales to children. Perhaps I can give you some ideas on how to increase your storytelling ‘coolness!’
Tips and Ideas
THE MAIN RULE : Don’t overact! If your roleplaying ends up muddying up the words, then the magic of the dialogue will get lost. The meaning is more important than the antics. Try imagining the words are giant letters surrounding you and you are their assistant or steward to help them get their ‘spirit’ come across.
For Any Story:
- Pick a book that you absolutely love - for example one of mine is Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
- Make time to practice by yourself beforehand, maybe even video tape yourself.
- If you’re still too uncomfortable, choose one character to emulate instead of all the characters to make it easier for you.
- Be careful not to go too fast. Reading with excitement is great, but if your words are too fast, your listeners will get lost.
- Use puppets if it helps you to open up to make the voices. Puppets are a great way to engage audiences and are a great prop to hide behind when you’re making funny voices.
My daughters and I read this over and over. There are great characters to voice and the story has wonderfully wry humor. We also enjoy The Little Old Lady Who as Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams.
Set the Mood
Especially for Halloween Stories
- Staging: dim the lights, get close together
- Props: keep a hat to wear or a flashlight to put under your chin
- Sidekicks: if appropriate for the story, include kid volunteers to demonstrate the action in the story or to make scary background sounds.
- Pretend: that the words are hunks of juicy hamburger (or veggieburger). You want to savor every bite!
- Bonus points: Get that witch cackle down, that Boris Karloff voice and especially that vampire accent (think of Count Dracula)
- Avoid screeching TOO loud - that can take away from the words, make sure the character‘s words are clearly enunciated. See the main rule.
I like to think of the story as a big giant present I’m giving to others. Here’s some imagery to picture this: I think of each word and angle of the story as parts of the present; the wrapping, the crackling of paper, the colors. Look at what’s inside, the most WONDERFUL thing you could ever see! You must not keep this amazing present to yourself. You HAVE to share it with your listeners!
Curse of the Campfire Weenies
Now You're Ready
Now you’re ready to go. Maybe start out with your own children. Tell them you want to make a fort with them with sheets and blankets. Pull together sleeping bags, pillows and snacks they like. Turn on the flashlight and bring out your story.
But where ever you start your storytelling venture, remember it’s a process. It may not be perfect, but when you finally get your first belly laughs or gasps of horror from your listeners, you’ll feel how worth it it was to make that extra effort.
African Storytelling: Princess Ayo
Carroll Ayo Durodola as Princess Ayo is the epitome of classic storytelling style. She’s engaging but not necessarily loud. She smiles often and her manner reminds you of your aunt sitting on the back porch telling you a family story.
I picked this example of storytelling because it’s very vibrant. The main thing Michael R. Kasony-O'Malley does is he engages his audience with motion and chanting. Another great tool.
Michael R. Kasony-O'Malley
The Indianapolis Story
I just had to add this. The actor Robert Shaw as Captain Quint tells a chilling story of the sailors from the ship Indianapolis marooned in the water while the sharks surround them and pick them out one by one. This outstanding performance is meant to inspire you as it inspires me.