Storytime is a precious gift we can give to children, fostering their imagination, language development, and emotional growth. It creates a strong bond between children and caregivers, providing an opportunity for connection and shared experiences. Making storytime a regular part of children's routines gives a strong foundation of literacy, creativity, and emotional well-being that will benefit them throughout their lives. It is time to embrace the magic of storytelling and unlock the endless possibilities it holds for children's growth and development.
The elephant in the room.
The amount of people who feel confident in their reading skills, let alone their reading aloud skills is shockingly small. So let's address the elephant in the room; It is okay to struggle reading aloud to your children. In fact, I would argue that is actually a good thing to have children witness occasional difficulties related to skipping words, misreading, and mispronouncing words. It lets them know that mistakes can happen, it teaches coping skills, and helps children realize that you don’t have to be perfect to enjoy a story.
Additionally reading aloud, like any skill, is something that improves through practice. Depending on when you start reading to children it develops right along with their ability to understand spoken language. So babies don’t care if you pronounce all of the words correctly the first time. Toddlers often prefer that you do not do the “voices” as it can be scary for them, and Elementary children of all ages are perfectly happy to stop in the middle of a paragraph for the opportunity to question the story. It is important that children need to SEE you prioritize reading not just hear you.
It’s time for an Adventure
As with any adventure or vacation, Storybook Adventures and family reading habits take planning. While story time can occasionally be spontaneous, creating a consistent reading time for your children (and family) takes deliberate thought and work.
It is easy to say after a long day, full of difficult parenting, that you will skip storytime just this once. Just remember that each skip makes the next one easier. Instead, try choosing shorter stories or even an illustrated poem or two (highly recommend Shel Silverstein). This can get you past the temptation and help end a bad day on a positive note.
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Choose your Adventure
It is important to choose books that you like as well as what your child likes. They may want to read about Paw Patrol every day but you need to be interested too! Instead, avoid choosing books with commercial characters. Those books are fine for independent or spontaneous reading, but for family storytime, you need something that will introduce new ideas. For instance, if you live in a desert read a book about snow. If your child is into Phineus and Ferb choose books that feature child protagonists or even one about platypus.
Storybooks are a great way to expose your child to different forms of art as well as literature. Don’t be afraid to choose a book purely for aesthetic reasons. The beautiful thing about illustrations and storybooks is that they are engaging the mind on several levels.
Additionally, pay attention to the length of the story and the word count on the page. For example, a toddler’s a word/ page count is usually less than 10 words. You know your child and what their attention span is. Choose a book based on how long you can hold their attention. Don’t worry you will get to chapter books soon enough.
Take them with you
As your child grows include them in your storybook adventure. Start by having them choose the book themselves. Once letter and then word recognition begin support that skill by having them start identifying what they recognize ( sounds, letters, and words). Finally, once their reading skills are mastered have them “help” by taking turns reading.
Eventually, there will come a time when your child has developed enough that they are choosing books you may not enjoy reading. Having them take over the “reader” job fully, you help to instill confidence in their reading skills. At some point, your family reading habit may evolve into a time when everyone in the family reads silently together.
Encouraging discussion and questioning of the storybook is vital to helping your children understand the necessity of interacting with the literature. Books often become doorways to difficult or awkward discussions. These literary conversations empower your children to practice creative and critical thinking. Finally, when all is said and done these discussions help to foster communication and closeness with your child.
Storytime is more than just a delightful pastime; it is a gateway to a world of adventure, imagination, knowledge, and emotional growth for children. By engaging in this simple yet powerful activity, caregivers and educators can contribute significantly to a child's language development, cognitive skills, and emotional intelligence. Through carefully developed reading habits, we can create meaningful storytime experiences that will shape a child's love for reading and storytelling for years to come.
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Jessica Payne has held many roles at Kids Need to Read from volunteer to Board Member, to finally the Executive Director. Kids Need to Read is a national literacy organization that helps to promote the joy of reading and the power of a literate mind to children by providing books and reading resources to schools, libraries, and other service organizations.
Literacy and literature are Jessica’s deepest passions. She is a voracious reader and a retired teacher, who has always promoted reading for pleasure as a vital part of every student's day.