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The Importance of Diction When Reading to Children


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Over time the English language has changed so much that anyone picking up a book written by Chaucer would have plenty of trouble understanding what he was talking about. Even in our own lifetimes, the usage of words has changed and will continue to evolve. Some of it doesn't appear to make any sense, although a lot of the current changes seem to be either the result of a lack of imagination on the part of those who need to come up with new words, or simple laziness - otherwise known as slang. Hand in hand with slang, and sometimes the very reason for slang words, comes poor diction - the nice way of saying lazy enunciation!

I am by profession a narrator of digital children's picture books. I also record other narrators, and in doing so have learned that the vast majority of those in the unprofessional category do not know how to ‘speak properly'! Enunciation is vitally important when you're reading out loud to kids, because you are the engine that drives the story. Every word must be understood. If it isn't, the story is derailed until that word is clarified, and in the time it takes to do that, you might well have lost your audience. I have had Moms, Dads, teachers, reading specialists and children of all ages audition for me; the kids are predictably the worst at diction but generally quite good at reading. The teachers and reading specialists are predictably the best with their diction, but rather surprisingly the most boring readers!

All too often these days, parents leave the education of their children entirely to schools. But the truth is that parents have a great responsibility to help in the education of their children, no matter how busy their lives. One of the most important elements for a child to learn at an early age is diction, because if their diction is bad it will immediately create a bad impression. Bad diction is a bad habit and can be corrected relatively easily. Here are a few tips to help:

1. Correct gently with a simple explanation of why you're suggesting the change. Perhaps you can mention how important it is to be clearly understood when going to an interview for a job. Or maybe you can use one of your child's favorite characters on TV as an example of how to talk well you could never be a TV star if you mumbled or had poor diction!

2. Never correct children in public or in front of their friends; this is humiliating, and will create a reactionary emotion that will totally void what you're trying to teach them.

3. Remember that it will probably be necessary to correct the same issue over and over again, so make a point of not doing it every single time the problem arises; pick your moments when the advice is most likely to be heeded and not when your child is in the middle of an excited description of their day at school!

4. Kids tend to emulate the people around them and those they are closest to the most - make sure you set a good example at all times!

5. Patience is essential. Never get irritable because that will give children the impression they can't fix the problem and so they won't bother anymore.

When reading to kids, keeping their interest is paramount. So it's not only diction that is important. You have to be animated as well. When reading to your child at night, and hopefully other times as well, your aim should be to make the story come alive. Make the characters live through their dialog and actions. It is your bounden duty to create an infinitely believable world in the child's head. You need to let go of everything else in your life for the 20 minutes you're reading, and become the story.

So please, read the words properly! Make sure you know how to pronounce the difficult ones before you get to them, and preferably what they mean too! Have fun reading in a spirited fashion. The end result is the most important one here - that big smile on your child's face!

Christopher Kennedy - Operations Director, Recording engineer, Voice over artist, music editor of MobiStories, Virtual Books for Kids, .

Responsibilities at Still Motion Media include overall audio concept for each book; sound quality control, recording narration, sound effects, composing and music editing.

He has over twenty-five years experience in the Motion Picture Film Industry working in all areas of Sound Supervision, Sound Editing, and Music Editing; achieving more than sixty Screen credits on films, made for TV movies and TV specials.

Nominated for three Golden Reel Sound Awards for: “Unfaithful, " “De-Lovely" and “Rameses. "

Collaborated with film composer, Jan A. P. Kaczmarek on the Oscar winning score for “Finding Neverland. "

Narrates audio books, and provides voice-overs for online training programs, commercials and industrial projects.

Education - studied English, French, Spanish, Music and the Arts at Bradfield College in England.

Contact: (818)486 4113.

Visit the MobiStories website and hear expert story tellers in action.


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