Promoting Language Learning Opportunities at Storytime

Reading with your Child

Children love to share books with you and it is always good to find out what happens in the story. Reading the book through first to see what happens is a good idea. On the second read through you can stop and comment on the characters or events. The Hanen ABC and Beyond program recommends that when you pause to comment or question you should strive for 5 conversational turns. You may comment (1) and a child may relate this to something they have experienced (2), you may ask a question (3) and the child may answer (4) and you may acknowledge how they felt (5).

You may play various roles when reading to your child. In the Director role, you read while the children listen. It is not about learning through conversation. When you take on the Entertainer role you change your tone of voice, facial expression and gestures for the different characters. You can also create exciting sound effects and suspense. While the story may be entertaining, children may not learn a great deal as there are few opportunities for conversation and discussion. The Timekeeper is the person who stays on schedule making sure story time does not run over. When the timekeeper reads a book, it is usually done quickly with little interaction or discussion so once again limited opportunities for a child to learn.

However, when you take on the role of a Responsive Partner, you encourage conversation and discussion during book reading. Responsive Partners use story time to engage children, and stimulate them to ponder, reason and problem solve. Children learn through back-and-forth conversations with an older and wiser partner who is sensitive to their abilities and level of language. It is in the role of the Responsive Partner that you will have the greatest impact on a child’s language and literacy learning.

The ABC and Beyond program have a few guidelines for turning book reading into a conversation. They suggest you:

  • Ensure your child is comfortable and can see the pages of the book
  • Allow your child to set the pace with their questions and topics
  • Follow the child’s lead with regard to a topic of conversation and add more information
  • Observe what your child is doing
  • Wait for him/her to formulate what they want to say
  • Actively Listen and encourage more conversation
  • Ask question which children can and want to answer. These are questions which are sincere, follow your child’s interest, encourage them to think and give their own opinions.

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