Reading out loud is one of the most wonderful ways we can help our children learn language(s). It helps to build vocabulary (in many languages) and helps children fall in love with literature and the written word.
The more we can make storytime a great experience for children, the more they will look forward to reading on their own down the road.
It doesn’t take a lot to make storytime a child’s favorite time of day. However, reminding ourselves of some key elements can help make it even better.
Here are some ideas for how to make your storytime the highlight of every child’s day:
- How we read stories to children is important. Alternating our intonation, pausing right before an exciting moment and creating different voices for each character can do wonders! Our presentation skills can make or break a story, so make sure that you prepare ahead of time with ideas for how to “be” each of the story’s characters. The more convincing you are, the more children will hang on your every word. For tips on how to do this, read Bilingual Books: Read Them Out Loud!
- Pick out stories that interest and entertain your little listeners. Storylines that contain intrigue, difficulties to overcome, conflict resolution and sympathetic characters are often high on a child’s list. Children enjoy having the opportunity to join in an adventure or situation that demands skill to overcome, be it thinking through a problem, facing a fear, helping someone in need or learning something brand new. Many world folktales and fables have these elements, such as The Giant Turnip, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Buri and the Marrow and Yeh-Hsien, A Chinese Cinderella. Other books such as Floppy’s Friends and That’s My Mum also provide some entertaining problem resolution for young readers, while also teaching them about accepting differences.
- Comfort and time of day play an important role in how attentively children will listen to a story. No one can focus on a story if hunger pangs are welling up over and over again. And who wants to listen to a story sitting in a hard chair! Get out the pillows and let everyone sprawl out on the soft, cozy carpet. When the weather is good, bring big blankets outside onto the grass and read out loud while children gaze into the sky.
- Make sure to choose books with a lot of illustrations and pictures, especially for bilingual storytimes! This will help children understand the context better and follow the storyline more easily. Emphasize words and point to the corresponding elements in the pictures as often as possible to reinforce vocabulary and meanings. Depending on the age of children in your class, some good books for this are Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Walking Through the Jungle and What Shall We Do with the Boo Hoo Baby?
- Invite children from different classes to share storytime together. This will show children that storytime is something special and an activity to share as a group. Make sure to leave some time before and after for a bit of socializing. It is hard for children to calm down after coming together as a group, so make sure that they know that extra time after the story will be available to hang out and chat.
- Talk about the stories during and after storytime. When children get excited about a story, they might have a hard time keeping their thoughts and excitement to themselves. If there are good opportunities during the story to give children a chance to share what is on their mind, take the time to do this. If not, let children know that after the story there will be time for discussion. For groups who are not eager to discuss the story after it has been read, make sure to have some questions ready to facilitate thought, reflection and conversation. The more children talk about the stories that they hear, the better!
Storytime is an important experience and can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. Make sure to emphasize the importance of the above elements with your students’ parents. Storytime at home is just as important as storytime in the classroom – perhaps even more so. Nothing can compare with the love and attention a child receives while snuggled on a parent’s lap listening to a story.
Making storytime special, enjoyable and exciting is the first step in helping our children become literate. A love of reading comes from a love of stories, so help bring this joy begin as early as possible in every child’s life.
Photo Credit: CarbonNYC
What are your favorite stories to read out loud to children during storytime? What suggestions do you have for how to make storytime the favorite time of every child’s day?