That’s right. IS. Story time IS family time. And the 10 minutes you take to share a book together? That’s 10 minutes of time you spent sowing the seeds which accumulate into a lifetime of harvest. It’s a lifetime of learning, a lifetime of memories, and a lifetime shared. And here’s a secret, the more you share stories with your children, the more you realize you are learning from each other.

So, how exactly is sharing a book together each night equivalent to planting seeds? “Aren’t we just working on reading?”, you might ask. It’s not as straightforward as that. If you really think about it, sharing your time together is the most important aspect of the interaction. Mothers and fathers who read to their babies in utero and beyond build strong connections with their children. We can embed story time with lessons beyond the literal pictures and writing on the page. It just takes a little know-how and practice to make story time the highlight of your day!

Now, there’s a lot going on during story time interactions. It could be a time to reflect on the day or how we feel; a time to discuss a new topic; a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company; or a time share our thoughts and what we know. Here are some awesome things that are happen when you spend time sharing 10 minutes of conversation and books each night.

  1. You’re growing your bond
  2. You’re growing your child’s curiosity and imagination
  3. You’re growing your child’s listening, language and literacy
  4. You’re growing your child’s empathy
  5. You’re growing your child’s skills of reflection
  6. You’re growing your child’s brain

Wow! “You mean I’m doing ALL of that in just 10 minutes?”. Yes, of course! But, it’s even better if you are diligent and keep the same routine each day.

  1. You’re growing your bond – Just spending quality time together helps your child and you form a meaningful relationship. It’s a sacred space where both of you should be 100% paying attention to each other. Although we’re talking about sharing books, sometimes it’s more important to start off interactions by connecting and talking about our day. When you start this from a young age, your children have the trust and confidence that you are there for them.
  2. You’re growing your child’s curiosity and imagination – Some things just can’t be gained from the real world alone. When we share books, we enter other realms and dimensions full of fantasy and wonder. You’re inviting your children to a land of make-believe. You’re opening doors to encourage them to imagine ask questions. Questions are precursors to answers. And, we can’t learn new things and find new answers without first inspiring. The world is truly at your fingertips when you learn from a book.
  3. You’re growing your child’s listening, language and literacy – When you share a book , there are many opportunities for your child to listen, understand language, use spoken language, and be exposed to print, words and narratives. When we share books, and share them effectively, we’re modeling new vocabulary, sentence structures, and various skills that will help your children succeed and become lifelong readers.
  4. You’re growing your child’s empathy – We talked about how sharing your time together shows that you you, as a parent, are there for your child. We can ask questions about each other’s day, or take time to talk through any challenges that we might have. While you read different stories, there are many opportunities and different types of books that help your children take on the perspective of another. In fact, it’s also a great idea to role play and use dramatic activities to retell stories that we are exploring. When we discuss characters in books and their roles (e.g., good vs bad), we can also discuss what different characters may be thinking or feeling.Being able to identify emotions. read between the lines and infer author and story meanings can be incorporated into book sharing — even with young children.
  5. You’re growing your child’s skills of reflection – Another thing that happens during stories is that, although we may be transported to another place or time, we are also making connections to what we know and learn. When we relate “text to self”, we develop better understanding of stories. The are chances to reflect, comment, and connect what happens in our lives to what may be happening in stories. For example, there are many children’s books that talk about a child’s everyday stressors. In order to help our children learn to reflect and look inwards, sometimes we just need to find the appropriate book for a topic of conversation.
  6. You’re growing your child’s brain – This one is a given! We all know that positive experiences in childhood, rich in language , literacy, learning and love grows bigger brains! We’re filling it with memories, current thoughts and all the connections for thinking to come!

Now you might be asking, “Well, how do I start?”. Some parents feel like their children won’t stay long enough for the book, or they don’t know how to narrate a book or make it fun. Here’s the thing, remember that book sharing should be an enjoyable time. If you’re not sure what to do at first, just think of it as a conversation. Start with any book your child loves, a book with a character they love, or even a photo album where the main character is, well, your child! Then, I’d suggest you follow your child’s lead. Don’t worry too much about reading page-to-page in order. Just focus on what your child is looking at and what they have to say. That’s another important thing to remember, these are ‘shared book readings’, so you should be both participating in the conversation back-and-forth and both participating in the exploring of the book. We want to avoid “reading to” where the conversation is only one way , parent to child. There’s a lot less learning going on if interactions are one-sided. In order for a child to learn, they need to be able to practice sharing their thoughts and using oral language in an interaction.

If you’re looking for an excellent resource on how to target emergent literacy at home during book sharing, you can also check out “I’m Ready” by Janice Greenberg and Elaine Weitzman. It’s an excellent book that I love to share with families, teachers and friends. The chapters are broken down really well into various areas of emergent literacy, strategies and checklists.

There is both a print version of I’m Ready! How to Prepare Your Child for Reading Success and a kindle version I’m Ready!™: How to Prepare Your Child for Reading Success – Kindle edition available on Amazon. Personally, I love the paper print version as I have yet to own a Kindle. However, I can see how easy it would be to access and convenient to own the digital Kindle copy!

The contents of this blog post are of my own opinion. The content and information contained are not meant to substitute professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your speech-language pathologist, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your child’s condition. 

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