A fabulous guest post by ‘Short Story Lady’ on why reading with your child is so important. She’s a professional storyteller and author based in Trafford, Greater Manchester.
At the end of a long day, it’s tempting to skip the bedtime story and rush the kids into bed so you can get some down time. After all, they pretty much know the story by heart, why read it again?
Well, I’ll tell you why: Stories matter more than you know! That book that’s falling apart at the spine from being read so much is a treasure. The comforting rhythm of familiar words might seem repetitive to adult ears, but is a vital step in early pre-reading.
Rhyme and repetition
Books with rhyming stanzas and repeated phrases help children predict which words are coming next. This helps reinforce the link between letter shapes and the sounds they make. The child hears the sounds they expect to hear, and sees the text on the page, time after time. They watch you as you read, and see how your mouth moves, and soon they’re joining in with words and phrases. Soon enough, they have the whole book down pat, and admonish you for substituting words or skipping pages. This, though frustrating for you, shows a remarkable feat of memory. You have the text to work from, but your child has memorised the sounds of the story, in perfect order, from start to finish.
In children’s books, especially those aimed at young children, the text is only part of the story. A picture tells a thousand words, and nowhere is this more true than in children’s fiction. When your child interrogates you about minute details of the illustrations, they’re making the most of the book in front of them. Why is she smiling? What will happen if that ball bounces and hits the window? What made the bear sad? All important questions, unanswered by the text, and helpful in building a child’s view of the world. You don’t need to give definitive answers to these questions. Ask the child to look through the book to see if another illustration answers their question, or ask them if they have any ideas. These discussions help the child build a back story for characters, making sense of the way different characters react to situations and bringing them to life in their imaginations.
The time will come, and sooner than you think, that your child will be reading independently. It’s tempting to leave them at this stage to read their own stories and step away. Avoid the temptation, storytime is still extremely beneficial as children move through primary school. Together, you can tackle chapter books, and longer books which the child would struggle with alone. You can explore language and social dilemmas together through the perspective of fictional characters, and build whole imaginary worlds! Older children love to hear you read long stories, chapter by chapter, night by night, building the suspense and the narrative in a way solitary reading cannot.
Social benefits of story time
Bedtime stories are only partly about the book and the text therein. They’re about time spent together, focused on the child, enjoying each other’s presence and physical closeness. They help the child wind down, relaxing the body and mind in preparation for sleep, in a way that screen time just can’t substitute. An audiobook doesn’t know why Goldilocks took the porridge, or why she slept in a bear’s bed instead of her own (you don’t either, but at least you’d consider the questions!); a TV programme won’t change a character’s voice to make it sound more squidgy. A tablet can’t cuddle the way you do, or tickle their nose with the turn of each page.
Bedtime stories are more than words read from a page, they are precious time, an investment in the intellectual, emotional and social futures of children. Whatever else you skimp on, don’t ditch the bedtime stories!
Short Story Lady is a storyteller and author based in Trafford, Greater Manchester. She offers a range of storytelling workshops in schools, libraries and at various events. She also offers a range of party packages for children of all ages.
She has written several books for both adults and children, which are available on Amazon, Smashwords and direct through her website.
For more information about Short Story Lady’s work, or to book her for an event, visit her website, follow her on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
Short Story Lady Website | Facebook | Twitter Author of “The Strangeling’s Tale”, “Drabble Folk and Fairy Tales” and “Memoirs of a Madcap Cyclist”, talented Wordsmith and member of the Society for Storytelling. Visit my site to discover more about my storytelling services or to buy my books in paperback or eBook format.
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