How many of us sink into automatic pilot at story time and finish a book without really being aware that we’ve read it? How many of us have a child who’d rather be doing anything but listen to the story?
No matter what your child’s age – from a baby wriggling to get off your lap, to a school child avoiding their reader – interacting and communicating with your child during story time can create an environment in which both the parent and the child is engaged and responsive.
In such an environment, you are doing more than enjoying special time with your child. Through simple techniques, you can help develop your child’s oral language skills.
Oral language skills:
- assist children to communicate effectively with peers and adults
- will aid the development of their literacy skills
- providing children with a storytelling structure will help them communicate succinctly and develop their written language skills.
Understanding oral language skills
Oral language includes any communication that is not written, such as the sequencing and communication of ideas, thought and actions to others. It also includes narrative – making up or retelling stories.
Creative methods for developing oral language skills at story time
To create a more child focussed discussion and fun storytelling experience:
- follow your child’s lead
- have fun
- be flexible.
This means not always feeling like you must read the words on the page (unless they have a tune of their own and hold the child’s interest). Sometimes it’s enough to talk about the pictures or ask your child:
- What can you see?
- What might happen next?
- Why do you think so?
- Go with their interest.
- Don’t worry about skipping pages if your child wants to – you will have more fun if you create your own story together around what you see.
Narrative children might like to act out parts of their favourite books, for example, pirates.
- They may want to be the character or act out the story with a prop or toy.
- Encourage play-acting by making story time part of your daytime fun too.
- Children may like to search the house for props to keep with their favourite stories.
- They may want to dictate a story for you to scribe – perhaps something they’ve done recently or their own unique story.
Encourage them to extend the story or be more specific by asking:
- When did it happen?
- Who is the story about?
- Where did it take place?
- What happened/what was the problem?
- What did they decide to do about it?
- What happened next?
- What might …say?
- How did it finish?
Most importantly, follow your child’s lead – story time is about fun. If your child does not appear interested, they probably aren’t.
- Try a new approach – use a toy to tell the story. Even a child as young as six months will be more engaged if their favourite teddy is talking to them.
- Make up a story or a silly rhyme – why not make your child the character? Children love hearing stories about themselves and by hearing you make up stories they will be encouraged to follow your lead.
- Children need to see that stories can happen anywhere, anytime and can take on any format – it’s all about enjoying yourselves.