Making Storytime Special
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011
(Classic repost, updated.)
Many years ago I had an experience I’ll never forget. While visiting a friend’s house–a mother of preschoolers–I observed the following: Her little one brought her a book, and trundled onto her lap so that she could be read to. My friend pulled her up onto her lap, and started reading to her…but this was no ordinary story. It was the fastest story I’ve ever heard! There was no expression, nor any discussion of the book or its pictures. She read it as quickly as she could, just to get it over with.
I hope this wasn’t the usual way stories went at her house. I understand that she did have company, and she wanted to placate her child so that we could continue our visit. But the whole thing made me sad. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.
Reading aloud should be a special time of bonding between parent and child. It should never be viewed only as an obligation—something to be rushed through at break-neck speed. Story time should be enjoyed…relished.
There are so many ways to make story time special. They are all simple, and so much fun! Here are a few ideas:
-Take your time and enjoy the story. Read a little more slowly than you think you need to. Enunciate your words clearly; your children copy your speech.
-Read with expression, and get into character: whisper, shout, growl, squeal, and make animal sounds as appropriate. Make male voices sound low, and female voices higher. Make each character as unique as you can–my boys love it when I add a southern accent for Hank the Cowdog.
-Encourage your children to chime in when there is a familiar or repetitive phrases.
-Pause at the end of phrases, to see if your child can fill in any missing words.
-Try reading in new places: How about a picnic read aloud time? You can have a picnic indoors or out. Maybe your little girls would enjoy a “tea time” reading. Read in different rooms, in your bed, in front of the fireplace, during bathtime, and so on. We love to read while snuggling on the couch, under a fluffy blanket.
-Try including pets or “loveys” (favorite blankets or stuffed animals) in your reading time.
-Extend your read-aloud time by acting out nursery rhymes and favorite stories, and watch your children’s play for signs that your read-aloud time is sinking-in: You’ll know you’ve found a gem of a book when your children include the book in their pretend-play spontaneously.
-Talk about the story: Speculate: What might happen next? What could the character have done differently? Notice the details in the pictures, as they relate to the story. Ask your child to describe the characters: What kind of dog is Harry? (A black dog with white spots.) What is the one thing he doesn’t like? (He doesn’t like taking a bath. These details are from one of our favorite books, Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion.)
-Notice details in each book’s art: How are the pictures made? Are they drawn, painted, colored, or collaged (what is the medium used?) Notice the artist’s use of color and light as well.
-Have your child tell the story, or part of it, back to you (narration.)
-Give your child a “print-rich” environment. Keep books at your child’s eye-level, to encourage them to investigate books themselves—or pick out books that they would like to hear. We used plastic rain gutters to make bookshelves right by our boy’s beds and provided them with reading lamps to encourage them to read in bed.
-Choose books that are about topics that are of special interest to your children. Consider turning books/storytime into a daily or weekly unit study or “theme” by reading about one main topic at a time, and by adding fun activities/art projects/dramatic play, etc that enhances the reading experience.
-Communicate to your children that books are important to you. Let your children see you reading books. Share books that you loved as a child with your children.
-(For older children): Read a book, and then watch a movie based on the book. How are they different? Which is better? Why?
-Something we do: Quote special sentences/passages from favorite books (and movies) when appropriate. Ask your children if they remember which books the sayings are from, which character said it, how he said it, and so on.
Don’t just read to your children—make reading special!
© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.