How to Help Shy Readers Become Expressive Storytellers!

As we are guiding youth, we will always find some students eager to engage in public and others much more reticent to do so. It is important for us to help shy students come out of their shell, in honoring ways which do not scar them and end up holding them back. Here are 3 simple steps to help your shy students soar! The end goal is for them to get in touch with the power of their outer and inner voice.

3 steps to helping shy students

On the surface, we want to help shy students find more joy in reading aloud. Certainly, there are plenty of great readers who read silently, and this is also important. In this case, we want to help shy students connect to the energy of their voice. This is critical for so many reasons, including future public speaking, interviews, connecting with others in general, and speaking with authority in any situation.  

STEP 1 | Interest of the student

Sounds simple, yet without using the interest of the students, any stated goal of yours will be very difficult to reach. More to the point, it’s not about our goal as an adult, it’s about the goals of your students. This means you’ll need to create some of the following in both one-to-one and group settings.

  • Authentic conversation

  • Brainstorming on what they enjoy

  • Discussions related to ideas for careers

  • Ongoing chats about what inspires them

These kinds of activities, built into the daily routine of your students’ experience will:

  • Help them identify the kinds of books that they will have an interest in reading

  • Help them foster a desire to read varying types of text

  • Help them identify more authentic reasons for them to read

STEP 2 | Music the student likes

Now that your students have begun to identify the reasons they want to read, and what they want to read, it’s time to ignite the flame of of their interest. What I mean is, it’s time to help them begin to express themselves more adamantly and passionately. This skill of not just presenting information, but using storytelling to make anything come alive, is a key life skill.

  • Choose a dramatic piece of music for any text you are reading with your students.

  • Choose some type of text you know connects with the interest of some of your students.

  • Demonstrate reading a small portion of the text with the music (this technique is described in this earlier blog of mine)

  • Have a conversation with your students related to what the music did for the text.

I recommend doing this in one-to-one, small group and large groups to help shyer students gradually gravitate toward this way of expressing themselves.

STEP 3 | Emotional Connection

Once this technique of reading and/or storytelling with music has been demonstrated, take the same piece of text and use a contrasting piece of music. Perhaps choose a piece of music that would not appear to be a natural choice Do this again, with yet another piece of music.

Engage your students with questions like:

  • What is the relationship between the music and the text?

  • How did the music impact the text?

  • How did the music and text impact you?

  • If you were going to read with music, what kind of text and music would you choose?

With the power of questions, you can gradually help students embrace this idea of expressing themselves.

RESULT | Voice of the Student

This has as much to do with the student becoming comfortable with their “voice” as it does with becoming a great reader. Once a student begins to enjoy using their voice, they will have even more reasons to become a world-class reader and communicator.