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You, Too, Can Be A Storytelling Pro!

We’ve got Goodnight Moon  memorized.  I can recite Go Dog Go  from the front seat while waiting in the carpool line.  And, there’s only so much of Put Me In The Zoo that I can take, you know?  So, I’ve been honing my skills as a story inventor and I’m hear to tell you, it isn’t all that difficult!

Creating your own stories opens up a whole new world of learning.  Children are able to use their imagination to picture the story you are telling in their heads, and it enhances their ability to think creatively as well.  With the exposure to verbal language, a child’s own verbal vocabulary grows.  And, it is a great activity for adults and children to share, making for stronger family bonds.  The best perk, though, is storytelling requires NO batteries, NO electrical plugs, and NO TV/video screens to entertain your child.

The best stories we tell in our home are the ones of my husband’s and my childhoods.  My boys love to hear about the time I threw rocks at a wasp nest, yet it was my brother that was stung.  They patiently wait for the part about my mohter’s loving reaction and how that simple moment changed my relationship with my brother for the better.  They equally enjoy my husband’s tales of racing his big wheel down the sidewalk with the neighborhood kids and the stories of Star Wars figures and Adventure People games.  I think that by sharing bits of our past, we’re opening the door for our children to do the same with us. 

Making up stories is just as important.  We have an ongoing story of a little brown rabbit that lives in our flower beds in the front yard.  Our little rabbit tells tales of his day, intermingled with activities that we’ve done.  The stories become so real for them that they actually look for the little rabbit from time to time in the front yard.  And now, my older son is taking part in the stories, weaving our little brown rabbit tales into descriptions of his day.  At times, when things don’t go quite right for him, a little brown rabbit tale is the easiest way for him to tell us what is going on.

So, how do you come up with stories to tell children when you think you’ve got nothing to tell?  Here are a few ideas: 

  • Ask yourself: What if?  What if we could fly?  What if we got on a train today?  What if the sun shone all the time?  Asking a “what if” question is a great way to start a story.
  • Retell a story you already know.  Take Goodnight Moon and make it Good Morning Sun.  You’d be surprised at how much fun it is to change the ending or create a different character.  And, kids love to get in on the action!
  • Try an autobiography – pick fun or silly moments to start with, or choose something from a time when you were the same age as your audience.

The most important part of storytelling is the talking part.  It opens up commication between you and your child that will pay off ten-fold in years to come.

Raising A Reader – Reading Aloud

I hear it a thousand times a day: “Mommy!  Can you read this book to me?”

As a teacher, I am thrilled that my children have an infinite love for the written word.  Most days, they would rather read a story than turn on the TV.  It is a passion they definitely acquired from me, and I know that reading will be a life-long love of theirs.

As a parent, it wears me down.  It takes patience, creativity and a well-rested body to read and read and read some more.  There are days when I beg to hear my kids ask for PBS or Disney Channel just to give myself a break.  But, I am grateful that my children are as interested in books as they are, and I know that it is one of the most important activities I can do with them each day.

Raising a reader takes time, energy and a full commitment from the caregivers.  It can also mean that you have to get creative as well.  Reading comes in many forms, from the comics in the paper to board books and paperbacks to labels at the store and signs on the side of the road.  How much time you devote to reading each day depends on the child and their age.  Younger children will do well to sit still for 2 or 3 minutes while you read, and don’t be surprised when your 3 year old wanders off after 45 seconds of stories.  The key is consistency and making it a routine.  Spend one minute each day for a week, and you will probably find that your child will want more as the days go by. 

Older children need solid chunks of time.  By kindergarten a good rule of thumb is to aim for 20 minutes of reading out loud a day.  It can be broken down into two 10-minute chunks or even less, spread out over the course of the day.  But, aim for around 20 minutes, and work towards making it a single sitting as the year goes on.  By first grade, increase that time to 30 minutes of read-aloud time.  A great activity to do is shared reading, where the adult reads a passage and the child reads the next one.  And, as the child gets older, practice shared reading with chapter books, and work on building their “silent reading” time. 

While these guidelines do not guarantee your child will choose a book over a video game, it does set the foundation for the importance of reading at home.  If reading is a priority for everyone in the home, the children will eventually make it a priority for themselves as well.

Read more about raising a reader in my previously published article, “When Does a Child Start To Learn To Read?”

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