I’m running a bit behind on my epic, three-part appreciation of the genius of Melanie Watt (click here for part one and part two), so, in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few Scaredy Squirrel-related videos to give you a taste of what you’ve been missing. (And, if you’ve already read Scaredy Squirrel, then enjoy this taste of… nope, the metaphor doesn’t work anymore. Just watch them and enjoy, OK?)
First, here are two very brief book trailers created by Scaredy’s publisher, Kids Can Press.
And, now, here’s a pretty good read-aloud video of the first Scaredy Squirrel book.
There are actually a lot of these kinds of videos on YouTube, videos of people reading children’s books aloud, and I have mixed feelings about them. On one hand, it’s nice to get such a thorough preview of the book and, particularly for picture books with a lot of verse elements, it’s kind of cool to hear someone else reading it aloud to get a sense of their rhythms and inflections (particularly if you’re not 100% sure if you’re reading it right – looking at you, In the Night Kitchen.)
On the other hand, most of these videos seem pretty lacking to me. There’s a read-aloud video of Watt’s Chester that I couldn’t stop screaming at – “You’re not reading like 40% of the text on the page! Why didn’t you read the jacket flap? Aren’t you going to highlight the illustrations? Are you trying to give me a heart attack???”
I appreciate that it’s mostly people from schools and libraries creating these videos, so they’re not exactly bursting at the seams with video editing experience, camera equipment, or spare time, but the vast majority of these videos are exceptionally stationary. And that’s just not how you read a book to a kid. At least, it’s not in my experience. I think when most parents read aloud, there are hundreds of subtle gestures, inflections, and hand motions that bring really specific emphasis to certain words and illustrations as the story goes along. And, as far as I’ve seen, almost all of those non-verbal cues are tossed out the window in these read-aloud videos. And I’m not sure how you replicate those cues on video. Do you zoom in on certain elements on the page? Is it a question of editing and timing that editing to a certain rhythm? Do you need to resort to follow-the-bouncing-ball technology?
I don’t have any answers on how to improve them, but I have yet to see an online read-aloud video that, in my opinion, really does a bang-up job of replicating the in-person read-aloud experience. But, hey, if you know of one, PLEASE send the link on. I’d LOVE to see it.