I hear my name being called (“Miss Maria, Miss Maria”) and find the student who’s seeking my attention.
“Can you read this book to me?” he asks, handing me the book.
“Of course,” I reply. We find a spot on the rug, and I begin to read the book aloud. As soon as I finish saying the title, Green Eggs and Ham, two more students plop down in front of me to listen.
After I get through three pages, I notice that the crowd has gotten larger, and soon enough I have an audience of eight, including the teacher, Ms. L, who’s paying close attention to my performance. That does it. My confidence plummets, and I can feel my heart racing. My stomach unleashes butterflies, and my voice shakes. Just then, I picture myself in a classroom on Arcadia’s campus as Dr. Trainor, who teaches “Instructional Techniques in Early Childhood,” tells us about the importance of having a great reading voice. To calm my nerves, I focus on the words, the students’ reactions, and my voice’s tone, volume, and pitch.
I try to remember that I’m reading to four year olds, who are more interested in the story than any mistake I might make. Ms. L’s intentions aren’t to make me nervous. She wants to know how I read to the students so that she can give me helpful tips for improvement or compliment me on the things I did right.
Finally, I let go. I allow myself to make the children’s read-aloud experience the best I can make it. I find myself doing silly voices but keeping my volume down since other students are reading their own books.
My voice changes work like a charm and keep the students intrigued in the story. I make the characters and actions come to life. With some phrases I let my left hand (which isn’t holding up the book) make gestures that go with the story. After the first time saying, “Would you like them here or there?” I point in front of me or across the room. I make a scurrying motion from left to right when I talk about a mouse and pretend to drive when asked if Sam would eat green eggs and ham in a car.
My antics drew big smiles and a few laughs, which is great because I’m making reading fun for them, and that’s more important than how I sound or what I look like in the moment.
I finish the last page, close the book, and take a look around at the students. A big smile forms on my face from seeing the joy in their eyes. That sparkle of enthusiasm lets me know that with practice my nerves will go away.