Guest Post – Flip That Story Upside-Down by Mike Karg

Happy World Read Aloud Day! According to, “Every year on the first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.” Inspired by this, area member Mike Karg has kindly sent a post that sheds a new light and offers advice on reading picture books to school children:

Flip That Story Upside-Down

Reading a picture book to a group offers unique joys and challenges. The energy from a classroom full of students, a gaggle of nieces and nephews, or the library story time crowd can be both daunting and invigorating. Harnessing that energy from the get-go drives a satisfying experience for all.

The audience must see the pictures as the story unfolds. And, the reader must see the words to guide the journey. Twenty-six kids do not fit on your lap. So, this often means holding the book aloft in one hand in a sideways, neck-throbbing, wrist-jarring, cadence-bruising, page-turning juggle. There has to be a better way.

Put that orthopedic nightmare to rest and hold the book open right into front of you. Standing up or sitting down, the book is in a fixed position so your audience can better take it in. Face the children to fully engage them and make eye contact with the shy boy in the back instead of losing him to his shoelaces.

But the words are upside-down! There are no shortcuts or special tricks to proficiency in this skill. It is just a matter of practice. Use a mirror. Read in front of your cats. Take the time to master it in advance. Inverted reading of a new book in front of a group is a recipe for stumbling.

Hey, wait a minute, you wrote the darn thing!  If you memorized the text and learned the cadence, you are not deciphering as you go but simply using the book as a backup.

Even when proficient, reading upside-down is typically slower than right-side up. So, what’s your rush? Picture books usually take only a few minutes to read anyway. Savor those words. Slow down. Enunciate. Drink in the pictures.

And then speed up when the bear on the bicycle with the cake on her coat and the shoes on her head and the duck on her knee go faster and faster tumbling on down to the sleepy little town in the middle of the bottom of the huckleberry hill to that messy old pond in a muddy KER-PLOOSH!

Exhale with your young readers who drew upon the fury and flight in your eyes as you rode down that hill together. That magic and energy begins with good posture so you can project with power and nuance. Head down and hunched over is no better than the sideways swivel. Carry your shoulders back and expand your ribs. Gather a sentence, bring your chin up and deliver the words right to your audience.

A read-aloud is not a task. It is a performance and picture books are portable theaters. The players beckon us close for another grand performance, with gusto and hush and bombast and wonder. And, of course, all the silly voices.

Sure, you could take the easy route and add a fancy USB teleprompter to your hardware armada before sailing off to your next presentation…nah, just flip that story upside-down!


About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
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2 Responses to Guest Post – Flip That Story Upside-Down by Mike Karg

  1. mikecrowl says:

    And the silly voices can be the very best part. Great article, Mike!

  2. Pingback: The passing of our Critique Group Coordinator torch! | As the Eraser Burns

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