Ten tips for story time

Sharing a story together is a wonderful way to spend time with your child. Using the following top ten tips will help you to make your story times even more special – and support your child’s development!

The Perfect Space

Sharing stories together is something that will help foster children’s love of literacy, so invest in making the time and space to read with your child. It doesn’t have to be long, but try and set aside a special time each day where everything else stops and the focus is on the story. Allow your child to choose a favourite or share a story that you love. Make a cosy space for reading, ensuring that you are both comfortable and your child can easily see the pictures and handle the story.

Never too young

It is important to read with children from a young age; even for very young babies! They may not understand the words you are saying, but hearing your voice is not only soothing but it will help your baby develop listening skills and stimulates an interest in sounds. It is also a lovely way to bond with your baby. Lift the flap and feely books are ideal for helping your baby’s developing fine motor skills. The age at which parents begin reading to their children is related to children’s language development; children who are read to from an early age tend to have a wider vocabulary later on.

Be a bit silly!

Show your child you are enthusiastic about reading. Children will tell a huge amount from your body language and tone of voice and will quickly pick up if you look or sound bored or frustrated. Think about how to inject some fun into the story by doing funny voices for different characters in the story or changing your tone of voice. For example, whispering in a scary bit of the story, speaking quickly in a high pitched voice in an exciting bit of the story or putting on a gloomy voice in a sad bit of the story. Build up the suspense by peeking onto the next page and squealing about the exciting bit coming next! Don’t worry about looking or sounding silly, your child will love the effort you are putting in and together you will have lots of fun!

Time to rhyme

Reading rhyming stories such as ‘The Gruffalo’ or ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ will support your child’s pre-literacy skills. Rhyming helps children understand how language works and hear the sounds within words. It also gives them an understanding of pattern, rhythm and understanding that words have common sounds. These are all important skills for children to have before they start to learn to write. Rhyming encourages prediction which is needed for children who are learning to read. When you are sharing rhyming stories, over emphasise the rhyming words when reading aloud so children can hear the similarities in the sounds. When children are becoming confident with the stories, leave pauses and allow the children to complete the rhyming string; “Oh help, oh no, it’s a …….”

Whatever next?

When sharing a story, see if your child can guess what might happen next. Model being a thinker yourself, “I wonder who the monkey might meet next in the jungle?” Encourage children to recall what has already happened and use ordinal language, “first the monkey met a butterfly, next he met an elephant”. Higher level thinking and problem solving skills develop when children are encouraged to reflect, predict, question and hypothesise. These are all important skills for developing early mathematical thinking and understanding mathematical concepts.

I wonder...

Ask children interesting open ended questions about the story, “What do you think would happen if the three bears had gone to Goldilocks’ house?” Avoid asking children questions you know they know the answers to such as “What colour is the bus?” or other closed questions that have a simple one or two word answer. Asking children open ended questions not only supports their critical thinking and imaginative skills, but can also support children’s self esteem and social skills. When children are asked an open ended question it shows that their thoughts, feelings and opinions matter. It also supports two way interactions and can help develop your relationship with your child. This is because open ended questions encourage children to become more engaged in a conversation. They will also encourage children to draw on a wider range of vocabulary. For younger children, commenting on the story can be as valuable as asking a question, “There goes that monkey up the tree again.” This allows your child to hear the language and develop an understanding of words, without putting pressure on them to speak. Whether you are asking a question or commenting on a page, allow your child thinking time before moving on; most children will take at least 7 seconds to process a question that is asked of them.

Tell your own story

Before starting the story, encourage your child to look at the front cover and predict what they think the story might be about. On each page you can ask your child to tell you what they think might be happening in the story or even encourage your child to ‘read’ the story to you, allowing your child to take ownership of the book. Using context clues from pictures in stories is an important pre-reading skill and will help when your child is given their first reading books at school. It is also fun to make up your own story about the characters and a lovely way to develop your child’s imagination.

Understanding values

Many stories have a moral theme to them or characters that are experiencing emotions that children can relate to. Reflect on these themes with your child, “Why do you think the monkey is feeling sad?”, “What would you say to the monkey to make him feel better?”, “How would you feel if someone stole your porridge?” This will support your child’s understanding of values such as mutual respect and tolerance and develop their understanding of language for emotion.

Using props

Sometimes using props with a story can help enhance the experience for your child. This could be as simple as your child holding their teddy when reading a story such as “That’s not my bear”. Your child could then compare how their bear feels in comparison to the bears in the story. Puppets can also help to tell stories and encourage children’s prediction and recall skills. Puppets can be made simply from lolly sticks, paper plates, wooden spoons – the possibilities are endless! Both making and using puppets will help develop your child’s fine motor skills. You could choose to provide a range of resources for after you have read a story; for example providing your child with a cardboard box, colander and welly boots after reading “Whatever Next!” and encouraging your child to re-enact the story. This will again support with recall, imagination and children’s developing vocabulary.

The language of books

Point out to your child what is the front cover, who is the author and illustrator and explain what the blurb is. When you are reading, use your finger to follow the words. This helps children’s pre-reading skills by helping them understand that print carries meaning when reading English we read left to right.

At Busy Bees, children benefit from a dedicated book corner with a variety of fiction and non-fiction stories. Many of our settings have lending libraries so you can borrow these stories to share with your child at home. Why not ask a member of the team if they can borrow their favourite story?

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