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Book review: Why Read Aloud Stories is a must read

A story rarely comes alive until it's read aloud or enacted. The latter is the USP of Read Aloud Stories, a collection of 15 tales that showcase oral storytelling methods. Soma Das finds out what the noise is all about

A boy named Hari who is always in a hurry gets an epiphany during a traffic jam; a naughty child named Bishu develops empathy for animals on losing his voice. These may seem like regular yarns yet their distinction is that they are choc-a-bloc with onomatopoeic words (evoke sounds) and are perfect for reading aloud.

Packed with 15 stories by writers like Manjula Padmanabhan, Uma Krishnaswami and Paro Anand, Read Aloud Stories has fables, modern tales, folk tales and real stories. It has been edited by Priya Krishnan and Deeya Nayar.

Krishnan shares about the title’s uniqueness, “Children have an ability to use language very early; they pick it up by observing adults talk, tell stories or reading aloud from books, complete with expressions and gestures. As children learn to read by themselves, parents stop reading to them. The practice of reading aloud must be sustained for as long as possible.”

Read Aloud Stories, edited by Priya Krishnan and Deeya Nayar, Tulika, Rs 200. Available at leading bookstores
Read Aloud Stories, edited by Priya Krishnan and Deeya Nayar, Tulika, Rs 200. Available at leading bookstores

A read-aloud book, Krishnan explains, emphasises on the elements of sound, rhythm, a smooth narrative flow, strong visual images evoked by the words, repetition, dramatic pauses to evoke atmosphere and a sudden question to catch the reader unaware.

Plus, the illustrations (by Ashok Rajagopalan) had to be alluring as well. “They had to complement and add to the fun of the stories with little touches of humour and fill in the details visually without overpowering the text,” she adds.

Duckbill, Rs 150. Available at leading bookstores
Duckbill, Rs 150. Available at leading bookstores

Sandhya Rao, whose story April Wind features in the title, says that it was important to keep sentences simple and short. “In read-alouds, the story has to keep going. The listener has to be able to follow the story comfortably and it has to move fast. Too many details could confuse the listener,” she adds.

Celebrated author Manjula Padmanabhan, who wrote The Naughty Boy, says she thought of sounds that would be fun for a child or a parent to make while reading a story out loud. “I like animals and imitating the sounds they make. So, animal voices were an obvious choice for me,” she states.

Film director and author Devashish Makhija, who wrote Hurry Hari, Hurry, admits that being a filmmaker, creating a word and audio exercise on paper was a challenge: “It had to sound interesting to a child. A story, in such a case, takes second place to the experience of reading aloud.” Makhija adds that the character of Hari was inspired by his own questioning nature.

Also read
Phiss Phuss Boom Stories from Our Grandparents: With stories by Anushka Ravishankar, Jerry Pinto and Sayoni Basu, the book looks at the authors’ childhood memories of Goa, Kerala and Bengal, and their grandmothers’ tales related to farting.

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