It’s well known that being read to is one of the best ways a child gets ready to read. But the benefits of story time come from more than just hearing words. Here are 10 ways to make story time meaningful for your early readers.
1 Get Familiar– Before diving right in to your next read, take a minute to look at the cover with your children. Talk about the title, what could it mean? What can you guess from the pictures on the cover? What might this book be about? In addition to getting them interested in the book, this gives your children the opportunity to make inferences and think creatively. They may ask questions that will be answered in the story. What a great tool for building comprehension!
2 Make Connections –As you read, make connections from the text, to similar concepts or situations your children have experienced. “Froggy’s mom is teaching him how to do the backstroke, just like you learned at swimming lessons today!” or “Do you ever have to help was the dishes like George did?” These kinds of connections help children better understand events in a story, increase comprehension and make the story more meaningful.
3 Question Everything-(OK, maybe not everything, but my hippiedad would appreciate the 60s reference!) Now and then, ask your children “why”. “Why did he hide?” “Why did they give the letter to Duck?” Also encourage your children to make predictions. “How will she get out?” “What do you think he will do now that he has the treasure?” These questions, once again, aid in comprehension and foster critical thinking skills, and they also allow the children to slip into the author’s chair for a moment.
4 Give the Words Meaning- As you’re reading, it’s easy to skip over words your children may not understand. Occasionally pull out a word as you read and ask your children what they think it means. They are often very good at using contextual clues to come up with a definition, a skill that will help them as they begin to read on their own. You may also want to preview a book, and talk about some of the words before you read the story. Focusing on a few terms in each book will pad their bank of vocabulary words and build language skills.
5 Picture This- Don’t forget to take in the scenery along the way. Children’s books are notorious for fantastic illustrations. Pointing them out and talking about the details not only increases the enjoyment for the children but teaches them to use picture clues to aid in understanding the overall story and making predictions. These are skills that will come in handy as they become independent readers.
6 Make it Personal – Draw your audience into the story by asking what they would do in any given character’s situation. Thinking from another character’s perspective also stretches the social and cognitive skills of these typically ego-centric preschoolers, and is another way to encourage prediction skills (see tip #3).
7 Point Out the Text-Subtly call your readers’ attention to the written words on the page. Sweep your finger under the words as you read. Occasionally point out familiar words and letters. Pause at the end of a rhyme and let your children finish the rhyme, using the written word as a clue. Let them sound out simple words as they begin to have the necessary skills. Tying the written word to the words they hear helps build prereading skills in children.
8 Talk About Emotions- Because plots usually center around some kind of conflict, stories are a great way to teach social problem solving. As you read, take time to talk about moral dilemmas and label emotions. These activities not only enhance the connections with the story, but build social skills as well.
9 Extend- If you just read “The Paper Bag Princess”, make some costumes from paper bags. Make your own green eggs and ham if the Dr. Seuss classic is on your reading menu. Extending a book into an activity makes it both more meaningful and memorable. Look under “Book Activity” in the category column to find examples.
10 Make it Enjoyable- You certainly don’t want to implement every one of these ten strategies with every page you turn. Breaking up the story too frequently makes it incoherent and tedious. The most important rule for a fantastic story time is to make it enjoyable. Find comfortable, cozy spots for reading together. Be expressive as you read, and really draw the children in. Let your children choose the books you read whenever you can, and don’t hesitate to repeat their favorites. If you do nothing more than create wonderful, happy associations with reading, you’ll go a long way in instilling a love of reading in the children you love and teach!
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