Doing the Voices: Reader as Orchestra

From this interview with awesome children’s book writer/illustrator Mo Willems:

MONTAGNE: You have a long relationship with writing for television. You’ve won six Emmys for your work at “Sesame Street.” And that kind of writing shows up in your books, it seems, not just funny but also really works and it’s very possible to read it out loud. Do you read out loud as you’re writing?

WILLEMS: I think it’s really important. I mean here’s the weird thing is. I write for illiterates.

MONTAGNE: Three year olds.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WILLEMS: Right? So what that means is I am dependent on my orchestra. And my orchestra can be a parent, it can be a teacher, it can be a librarian. But I have to make sure that my orchestra is engaged. That they are, you know, maybe being sillier than they normally are; that they are yelling and jumping around, so that that’s what’s going to make the book work better. It’s very, very important. Also, because it’s a time to be together. You know, I want parents to be engaged and I want them to laugh, because then it’s cool. I think that sometimes parents forget that they are the coolest people in the world to kids. They’re just awesome. So if they’re enjoying reading books, suddenly the kid is going to say, wow, reading books is awesome.

I love the idea of the reader as the “orchestra” of a picture book. Willems does a great job capturing voice and making his characters really dynamic for the reader and the listener. You need to do the voices!

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