How to tell tall stories!
Reading a book to kids is a simple task and very rewarding. Yet I’m going to presume to tell you how to do it. But first a qualifier, there is no wrong way to read books to kids -any reading is better than none.
Here are my top five things to consider when you’re reading to kids.
Don’t leave out emotion when you’re telling stories. Sob, cry, sing, dance - convey to the kids the reality of the story you are telling. This allows them to see the reality that is reflected in the story. If you don’t get the kids to make this connection between text and emotion, then reading for them can become mundane.
● Expression and Excitement
Read with expression. Vary your reading pace to match the words. Use different voices and facial expressions. Encourage your child to read along with you by completing sentences and turning the pages.
● Enjoy Yourself
Pick books that you know your child will like. Also think about what you like, if you get bored your child will notice. If your child is old enough, let them help pick out the books. Read in a comfortable place, perhaps where you can snuggle up. It doesn’t always have to be a bedtime story, for some kids this works, but don’t be trapped by the time, do it when your child will be ready to listen. Only read while you have your child's attention - once their attention is at an end it doesn’t help to continue. You can always come back to the last page tomorrow.
My personal favourite! I don’t think you can tell a story without it (but that’s just me). Humour compliments many stories and can be used as a tool for reviving flagging attention.
Me “See the cow? The cow goes quack”
Child “NOOO Cows go moo”
Me “oh! Cows go baa?”
Child “no they don’t they go moo”
These sort of interactions can do wonders for a story telling but you (I) must resist the temptation to turn this into a distraction by extending it too much.
Answer questions your child has about the book. Ask "What do you think will happen next?" and "What noise does a dog make?" Point out notable things in the illustrations as they can help develop the story and also explain concepts to the child. Let them make observations. Stopping frequently may be frustrating at times, but it helps them form a mental picture in their mind of the story being read. This in turn is a big part of the skill needed for learning to read on their own.
Telling a story from your own life is a great way to get kids interested in a range of things. It gives them the idea that stories can contain truth and also that things from the past have relevance to them. Doing this as a purely oral story is fine, but perhaps you could create a story book of this as you go? This is something that my own Grandmother did. As small children, we listened patiently to the tales of Benny The Little Caravan and his adventures, taking my Grandparents around Australia. Now those hand drawn books are favourites of my own children. You could create a family treasure of your own by doing this with your children, grandchildren or great grandchildren.
And what are the benefits of all this? Here are a few to start with. When you read to your children you can:
● Answer your children's questions about a whole raft of things. Where does Santa live? Where do baby’s come from? Why do I have curly hair? Why are boys so smelly?
● Build their language skills, give them a whole raft of new long and exciting words that they can use out of context and in strange ways while they explore language.
● Develop their reading skills through exposure to the ‘tools’ of reading and through an increase of enthusiasm.
● Give them a longer attention span, practice makes perfect. If your little ‘imp’ gets to practice sitting still by listening patiently to something that holds their interest, it can be good practice for waiting patiently at other times (well it’s got to be worth a try).
● And perhaps best of all, you can strengthen your relationship with them through having a time you can spend together doing something that you both enjoy.