The blog

3 ingredients for spreading the joy of reading with your child

Reading together can be done in a myriad of contexts.  In the very early years when infants are not even looking at words– they can still share your love for books. Merely by being physically present as you do things, they observe your interests and what you value. The way you make clear your value system is with your attention. When you’re giving your child physical closeness, face-to-face expressions, and your voice– you’re showing them that they are important and what you are doing together is important.

There are three ingredients of early reading that also help you bond with your children in a way no one else can:

  1. Face to face communication (not just your voice, which they’ve heard since before their birth), but your facial expressions convey much information about the story. Make sure you can see each other’s eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. Vary the vocal expression in your voice to mimic characters, environmental noises, and story tension.
  2. Physical closeness, so they can hear the vibrations of your voice if you’re talking or feel the tenseness or relaxation in your body. Your posture, gestures, and motion help to convey your emotions beyond what is written in the text. 
  3. Your actions, which they can observe as you perform and respond to the story. You can model story elements and actions. Some children enjoy acting out different character parts.

When these three ingredients are combined with reading, the bonds between parent and children grow stronger, even if the child is not consistently being read to. This is one reason to see storytellers perform, to give you ideas on how to dramatize a story.

At a young age, I fell in love with reading through observing my mother’s love for reading.  One of my earliest memories was when mom was sitting on a stool and reading a mystery novel.  She held me on her lap as she was reading and I wasn’t really paying attention to the book because it wasn’t a picture book. I was just happy to be together and quiet in the sunlit room.  It wasn’t a kids book but my mom was focused on the book. I didn’t even understand what reading was, I might have been a baby, but the seeds for my own reading was planted then.  The intimacy of being in close proximity to my favorite person and seeing her joy from her book signaled to me that books were rewarding.  Sharing her reading time with me imparted a sense of respect for the joy that books could bring. I was seeing her love reading and I knew, subconsciously, that I would be a reader too.


No Comments »

Take a Story Walk, eh?

Storywalk Cards from Norfolk Public Library

Storywalk Cards have a velcro back and can be attached to stakes.

One great way to learn how to read is from picking text out of the environment.   Literacy rich environments encourage children to make meaning from printed words around them.  Recently, we attended the local Library Showcase and learned about StoryWalks.  StoryWalks are a fun way to bring books to life by exploring a storybook world in a real space.  These “StoryWalks” feature popular children’s storybooks separated into glossy pages to be found throughout a physical space. You  read a page, then walk and read some more. This encourages literacy exploration, and children learn how to seek out text in the environment. You might also end up reading road signs, public notices, or other print encountered by happenstance.

Storywalk Bag

Your StoryWalk will arrive in a neat bag, and you can either velcro them to walls or attach them to stakes.

As you walk around,  ask children to point out similar features matching the book to your physical location. “Do you see a pine tree that he could be hiding in?” “Could this be the hunny tree from the Hundred Acre Wood?” “Did you hear that bird, sounded like he was giving us a clue?”  Adults can also help children decode the words at each marker, or ask about the plot. “What do you think will happen next?”  Point to the words and let them fill in words you think they might know. “Corduroy waited for…– let’s sound it out– what letter is this and what does it sound like?”   Pretend to be looking for clues to the next part of the story. Remember to use your stage voice when reading aloud.

You can find more resources to download StoryWalks here:

  • http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/storywalk
  • https://www.kellogghubbard.org/storywalk
  • https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/0f622b_fa5c4096972d49a9ae03dd3dd01cff00.pdf   – There’s also a guide on making your own story walks here.

Children 3 and up will enjoy this activity, but we think the whole family can join in. Once children learn to recognize words in their environment, you might find going out even more fun. On a recent trip to the supermarket, a five-year-old was pointing at all the signs that she could suddenly read.  It is empowering when young children realize that people can get information from print in the environment.

No Comments »

The funny expressions are memorable

                   oo$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$o         o$   $$ o$
   o $ oo        o$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$o       $$ $$ $$o$
oo $ $ "$      o$$$$$$$$$    $$$$$$$$$$$$$    $$$$$$$$$o       $$$o$$o$
"$$$$$$o$     o$$$$$$$$$      $$$$$$$$$$$      $$$$$$$$$$o    $$$$$$$$
  $$$$$$$    $$$$$$$$$$$      $$$$$$$$$$$      $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
  $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$    $$$$$$$$$$$$$    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$  """$$$
   "$$$""""$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$     "$$$
    $$$   o$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$     "$$$o
   o$$"   $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$       $$$o
   $$$    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$" "$$$$$$ooooo$$$$o
  o$$$oooo$$$$$  $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$   o$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
  $$$$$$$$"$$$$   $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$     $$$$""""""""
 """"       $$$$    "$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$"      o$$$
            "$$$o     """$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$"$$"         $$$
              $$$o          "$$""$$$$$$""""           o$$$
               $$$$o                                o$$$"
                "$$$$o      o$$$$$$o"$$$$o        o$$$$
                  "$$$$$oo     ""$$$$o$$$$$o   o$$$$""
                     ""$$$$$oooo  "$$$o$$$$$$$$$"""
                        ""$$$$$$$oo $$$$$$$$$$

What’s your line, anyway?  As parents, we might approach reading together as a solemn task. We may focus intently on the words on the page. Realize, however, that the words are merely a lubricant for conversational practice. What your children will remember is the unique expressions we share as we communicate. When we make a funny face, stick out a tongue, or express surprise “Whoa– what?” we are conveying our style and mannerisms in an intimate way. It’s these habits that make conversation interesting.  Saying “That’s a stinky mess, isn’t it?-eww!” while we hold our nose, will make the story memorable.  Kids relish learning your unique sayings, and you may find them not just laughing. but giggling to try it.  So next time you read, think about how you can glam it up some unique-to-you gestures and expressions.  It will be a special shared joke for that particular book.

No Comments »