Who is your favorite hero? Detective? Adventurer? As readers, we often become attached to characters and follow them from story to story. Following a narrative or story is not only an important early literacy skill, but it also increases a child’s motivation to read similar stories. In her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling created characters so likable and interesting that children (and adults!) enjoy following their stories from book to book. Would these books have been so successful if people didn’t care what happened next to Harry, Ron and Hermione?
Many of us can still remember the literary characters that first became our favorites. I loved Berenstain Bears. What lesson would Brother and Sister need to learn next? My brother latched onto the Peanuts characters and Garfield at an early age. And while all of these characters are still around today, children are continuing to find new favorites. I love how kids light up when they see Pigeon decorating the walls on Bookmobile, Jr. Which books did they read with Pigeon to make them so excited? “Pigeon Wants a Puppy”? “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”?
Encourage your child to invest in favorite characters and follow their continuing adventures in different books. A child with strong literacy skills should be able to talk about what happened in the beginning, middle and end of a book. If your child shows a fascination with a particular character, then he or she will likely be more motivated to remember what happens in a story. Ask your child to recall specific details or retell the story when finished. “What color was the bus?” “What happened at the end of the story?” Continue reading
When I was little, I hated to go to bed. I think bedtime stories were read every night without fail not just because my parents were big readers, but also because they had calculated I needed approximately 2.25 hours to be tricked into going to sleep. While I have only the fondest memories of “Corduroy” and “Madeline,” my favorite bedtime ritual was actually a kind of game my father and I began to play together.
Dad would ask me what had happened while he had been at work that day. Some nights I was very creative.
“Well, when we all woke up, we decided it would be fun to go to Disney World. So we did. We got on a plane, and Alex was scared, but I was not. Then we met Mickey and rode everything three times! Then we decided we wanted to take a train back to Kirksville because it was time for naps, so we did…”
Some nights I took the job more seriously and regaled my father with a more truthful, (painfully) detailed account. “First, I woke up. I had cereal for breakfast. It was Lucky Charms. I don’t remember what Alex ate. I was still been wearing my pink nightgown…Daddy, you know which pink nightgown! My favorite pink nightgown that I wear when I play ballerina…”
My father is a patient man.
But what I did not realize at the time – especially as I had not yet been on a plane, a train or to Disney World – was that I was learning to tell a story. And what can 3- to 5-year-olds talk about better than themselves, their daily activities and things they want to do? Continue reading
Words represent things. When I present you with the word apple, no matter whether the piece of fruit that appears in your head is red or green, you know what the letters a-p-p-l-e mean. This seemingly obvious concept is one all of us have to be taught. Print awareness, which includes simply noticing words everywhere and knowing how to handle a book, is an important early literacy skill to encourage in young children.
When you read a picture book like Nikki McClure’s “Apple,” chances are your young child is focusing on the beautiful illustrations, the fruit a splash of red that appears on each page. From time to time, point to the words as you read so that your child learns you are reading the text, not the pictures. If a book has a repeating word or phrase, point it out and encourage the child to say it each time it appears on the page. Let the child turn the pages, so your little one learns how a book actually works, which way the spine should face and which part of the book is its beginning.
Show your child that print is all around us. Point out signs in the grocery store or along the road. When your child starts yelling “S-T-O-P spells stop!” from the backseat, you’ll know you are successfully developing her print awareness! Continue reading
You have read “Goodnight Moon” 500 times, and you know it by heart. Your child loves the book so much that he can tell you the story without even knowing how to read. While this repetitiveness may seem like torture to you, it actually is a good thing. Narrative skill, or the ability to tell stories, is one of the tools your child needs to start reading.
Knowing that stories have a beginning, middle and end, and the ability to talk about activities in a sequence are important to developing narrative skills. Want to make a story more fun? Act it out! Acting out a story helps your child understand and remember the order of events in the story. One of the favorites in our household is “Mud Puddle” by Robert Munsch. I love to pretend to be the mud puddle and get my son “completely all over muddy.” Continue reading
I’m convinced that children are made for poetry. They are geared toward finding delight in the everyday, infuse common objects with magic and are hard-wired for play. And so much of poetry is indeed playful.
Literacy experts tell us that teaching children the joys of playing with language will help set them on the path to becoming confident readers, and poetry is a great tool for encouraging children to enjoy the sounds of words. Poems emphasize the rhythm of language and the ways individual sounds make up words. In “Reading Magic,” author Mem Fox argues, “Rhymers will be readers. It’s that simple. Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are 4 years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are 8.”
Not all poetry rhymes, of course, but reading non-rhyming poems can also benefit children. Poems often introduce new vocabulary through unusual or interesting word choices, and rich visual imagery can stimulate a child’s imagination, spurring them to see the world around them in a new way.
April is National Poetry Month, and April 18 in particular is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Encourage the kids in your life to choose a favorite poem, copy it on a piece of paper, and then share it throughout the day. Celebrate further by exploring books of poetry together. Your library has a number of poems for children, both in picture books that illustrate a single poem and in anthologies. Check out our catalog list of recommended poetry for children, and if you have a favorite poem, please share it in the comments!