Friday, February 02, 2007

On Reading Aloud

I had a great day yesterday. Let me tell you about it.

My aunt works as a librarian at an elementary school here in Toronto, and she had organised all these events to celebrate Literacy Week this week. She had devoted one day to having guest readers come in and read a book to a class and she asked me if I would be interested. And I thought what better chance to use small children as guinea pigs!

So I went to the school and brought along two chapters of my book. I was quite nervous. I would be reading twice, once to a class of grade 6's and once to a class of grade 7's. And personally I consider those grades notoriously tricky. You see they have strong opinions at that age. They're people by then. And if they don't like you, they'll let you know.

I was escorted around the school by two of the grade 7 girls who were totally awesome. They asked me questions about the book and writing and stuff. And then they would introduce me to the class, reading out this mini-speech my aunt had prepared for them. And then there I was, on my own, in front of the class. All eyes on me.

Must win them over. So, first off I criticized them for the mild applause they gave me after the intro was over. I mean seriously. I demand whooping and whistles thank you very much. So we tried it out again. Second time, much better. Then I told them a little about the book so they would understand the chapters I was reading. And then I said that what I figured would make the most sense was after I finished reading chapter 3 they should all sit there in quiet reflection for a few moments. Possibly they could say something like, "Dude" or "Woah", while stroking their chins. And then, of course, I requested that after I read chapter 4, they would cheer in that uproarious fashion like last time. I also asked that at least someone shout out, "That was the best reading ever!"

And then . . . I read.

And it was a really different experience I don't mind telling you. I'm so used to acting and moving around and keeping people's attention by being silly. But sitting there reading for 15 minutes (with, granted, a lovely moment of quiet reflection between chapters) made me nervous. I did act things out a bit. In chapter 3 there are quite a few physical descriptions, so I would point to my head, or nose, or whatever was being described. In chapter 4 I actually did accents. Which I wasn't sure I could pull off. Still, watching some of them cross their arms on their desks, and resting their heads on top, it made me a little nervous I don't mind telling you.

But it was all good. I got some great laughs from the kids, which was so awesome, and a total relief. And after I read to the grade 7's I even took some questions from the class. Or really the three boys who kept raising their hands over and over. And the teacher. They asked me how many chapters the book was, and they also asked if it would be made into a movie. And since they also knew I was an actress from the intro, asked what I had been in. I hope I didn't disappoint them by saying, "Mostly theatre."

At the end, I got my applause, and after some cajoling a chorus of, "That was the best reading ever!" And I feel that the whole thing was a great success. They were all very attentive, and as I left, one kid said that I was a very good reader. And it was SO nice to hear that, because it was my first time.

My mommy came too and sat in the back. She also said I did a good job. Though I read a bit fast. Which was predictable. Of course she was immensely proud of how I handled the students, having been a teacher herself for years and now a teacher of teachers (both my parents are now teachers of teachers, and my dad had to call me to congratulate me on my work with the kids that night too. The things that teacher parents take pride in).

And that was my day! My aunt sent me an email this morning saying that the teachers of both classes thought I did a great job, and that the kids had a great time and they all want to buy the book! Yay! That's at least 40 books sold! Watch out JK Rowling!

I really hope I can go back in the fall once the book is officially out. That would be super neat.

I had a really good time.

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Thanks again to Lisa for such a great visit and for everyone coming to hang out yesterday! I think my first hosting gig went pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

2 comments:

ORION said...

What a great story Adrienne!
Those ages can be tough so your story must be terrific.
You'll have to give some tips on reading aloud.
I'm serious here!!

adrienne said...

Aw my ever loyal commenter! Thanks Orion! I don't mind giving tips. It does feel a bit strange seeing as I am so not a seasoned professional at public readings. But I am an actor, so I must know something.

I'll put a little something together. It is a good idea.