Super Story Time

“Tell me a story!” or “Read it again!” You have probably heard those words spoken by a child you know. Go ahead and answer, “Yes!” Cuddling up with a good book is a great way for children and adults to spend time together.

Reading together is one way that families, caregivers, and teachers can help children build the skills that will help them be successful in school. In fact, reading is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged health care providers to make literacy promotion an essential component of pediatric primary care.

Reading together supports the development of children’s language and comprehension skills. Reading exposes children to new ideas and information. Children learn how printed text works. They hear the sounds of language. As you read, children are building vocabulary.

Conversations about what you are reading are opportunities to build cognitive, social, and emotional skills. You can encourage children to recall the order of events in a story, guess what characters might do next, and talk about how characters might feel.

Children benefit from the chance to repeat and replay stories in different ways. Children show their understanding of a story through these activities. They use the words they have heard and have the opportunity to be creative with language. Below are some ideas for how caregivers can build on story time.

  • Act it out: Some stories describe movements or dances. Try to make the movements you see in the pictures. Dress up, play pretend, and tell a favorite story. Scarves, old clothing, and hats made of paper can be used creatively as costumes. You can even use a cell phone to video your storytelling and watch your creation together.
  • Create puppets: Puppets can be made out of paper, popsicle sticks, straws, and bits of cloth or yarn. Turn cardboard tubes, paper bags, and old socks into puppets. Use your imagination to create characters from favorite stories and songs. You can use the puppets to retell a familiar story or make up a new one. Try using stuffed animals and toy figures like puppets in storytelling.
  • Use a storyboard: Children enjoy being able to move pictures around as they retell a story or sing a song. A simple storyboard can be created with a piece of flannel glued to cardboard. Flannel, felt, or Velcro bits on fabric or paper cutouts will help cutouts of characters or a story scene stick with static. What can you do if you do not have a flannel storyboard? No problem! Try using paper cutouts and magnets on the refrigerator or other surface. You can even just move paper cutouts on a table top as you tell the story or sing a song.
  • Draw a picture: With a pen and paper you can tell a story. You do not need to be a great artist—stick figures and scribbles are just fine! As you tell a story, draw figures and symbols to represent what you are saying. Share the pen with your child and encourage them to join in. You can also try this with a dry erase board, magnetic doodler, or even with a stick in the sandbox at the playground.
  • Sing songs that tell stories: The lyrics of songs can tell stories. As you sing, act out the words and encourage your child to join in the singing. Look for books that illustrate song lyrics. Make up your own versions of favorite songs.
  • Tell stories about you: You and your child have many experiences and many stories to tell! Fold a piece of paper to make a little book. Write down your child’s words and illustrate the book together. If you have access to a printer or can get photos printed at a local store, you can include pictures of your family in the book. Children love to see themselves and the ones they love as part of a story!

Rebecca Swartz

Dr. Rebecca Swartz, an early learning specialist for IEL, completed her doctorate in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rebecca’s research and outreach work focuses on infant-toddler care, home-based child care, and the social-emotional development of young children. Her goal is to help parents and early educators by providing evidence-based resources on child development and early learning.