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Reading stories is a powerful way to nurture closeness with your child, inspire their imagination, and set them up for a lifelong love of reading.
But it doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes when a long day gets the better of us, we get tempted to rush through from cover to cover, skip a few pages, or lose our audience’s attention with a flat and uninspired tone.
It’s important to make story time fun and engaging. Showing your child how great it is to read will help them grow into a confident reader. And for many parents, story time is a beloved family ritual–one that should be cherished for however long your child is willing to take part.
Here’s what you can do to turn story time into a magical experience, every time.
The most important thing to do is take your time and read at a steady pace. Young children need time to take in what they hear, and remember, children will pick up any slight hint of irritability or impatience. If you’re short on time, choose a short book or spread a longer book over several nights.
Set the right atmosphere
Switch off your phone. Remove distractions. Create an atmosphere where it’s just you, your child, and a wonderful story to get lost in. Make sure you have good lighting so that both of you can clearly see the words and pictures.
You don’t need to have done drama classes to be good at this one. Use different facial expressions, make eye contact, and use body language. Hold up the book in one hand and use the other for gestures. Bring to life all of the characters and emotions in the story.
Do the voices
How did the Grinch sound when he vowed to steal Christmas? Or what about the giant who caught Jack climbing up his magical beanstalk? It doesn’t matter how bad you think you are, your child will more than appreciate your efforts to make every character sound unique.
Books with great rhymes, rhythm and pace are fun to read and listen to. Before you read, get familiar with the structure in your head. Quicken your pace when you describe action verbs and place an emphasis on rhyming words. Pamela Allen, Mem Fox and Dr Seuss are some fabulous picks.
When you reach an onomatopoeic word, like buzz, hiss, meow, cuckoo, honk, or boom, go on and make it convincing! Watch your child burst into laughter or jump with surprise–the emotions you give them are part of what makes story time memorable.
Engaging your child by making simple remarks (e.g. ‘Wow!’, ‘That was lucky!’), talking about the pictures, or asking questions (e.g. ‘What could happen next?’) is a great way to make story time interactive and build your child’s listening and comprehension skills.
Be suspenseful and build excitement for the next story time
Slow down and stop before turning each page. Building up suspense is a great way to leave your eager audience wanting more, and get them looking forward to many more story times to come!
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