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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 5, No. 3 - May/June 2013

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The Magic of Storytime

By Katrina Nannestad

I love books. I love words. I love getting lost in stories. Many of my warmest memories of raising a family involve storytimes. Snuggling up in a comfy spot, a small boy either side, a pile of books at my feet... bliss!

In this age of technology and over-scheduled childhoods, reading books can seem like a quaint, out-dated pastime. But reading is a powerful activity that is worthy of inclusion in every family's daily ritual from the day a child is born.

Books are super food for a child's intellectual development. Oral language skills develop with practice and meaningful response from others. When we read an exciting book, chitter-chatter flows freely and naturally.

Daily exposure to books teaches young people that print has meaning. The rhyming, repetition and rhythm in many loved children's books develop an awareness of sound that is intrinsic to learning to read and write.

Research shows that children who have been read to regularly in the early years learn to read and write more easily once they start school than their book-deprived peers.

Reading is also a wonderful way to expand a child's vocabulary. Book language is not the same as spoken language. Many stories introduce children to words, turns of phrase and language patterns which they would not come across in normal, everyday conversation.

In books, laughter becomes chortling, guffawing, cackling and smirking; 'Yes please' becomes 'why, thank you ever so much. That would be simply delightful and delectable.'

Beyond the academic, storytime teaches important social skills. When reading, we need to sit still and focus. While books should definitely lead to episodes of wild shouting, chanting and laughter, there must also be times where a child listens quietly and waits for the appropriate moment to ask a question or express an idea.

Storytime behaviours are important in a number of social situations that young children will encounter, like travelling on public transport or sharing a family meal. Concentrating, listening and waiting your turn, are vital social skills for learning and fitting in at school.

Storytime also has emotional benefits. Many children's books deal with painful topics such as loneliness, conflict, loss and fear. Story time provides a safe and private place where your child can explore these issues. In addition, when we cuddle up with a book, we can help our child to feel cherished and important. Life is busy and bustling, but during story time, we give our undivided attention.

And let's not forget the joy factor. Reading a book with a small child might lead to singing, shouting, giggling and dancing. It may encourage snuggling, quiet musings and the sharing of secrets. Rhymes will be memorised. Words will be juggled. Favourite stories will become part of your family culture. Precious memories will be forged.

Story time is pure magic!

Storytime Tips

  • Find a quiet, comfortable spot, free of television & other distractions
  • For a child who finds it difficult to sit still, start with short, fun bursts of reading
  • Build up to longer storytimes as the routine is established
  • Expose your child to a range of picture books - rhymes, repetitive stories, lift-the-flap books & traditional tales
  • Ask your local librarian & book shop for advice on age appropriate books for your child
  • Have times of conversational & active reading where your child is encouraged to talk about the story & the pictures, to join in on rhymes, repeated phrases & actions
  • Be ready to read favourites over & over again! It is part of the fun &
    gives a child a great sense of cleverness in knowing what will happen next
  • End story time before your child loses interest & reading should always be enjoyable

About Katrina Nannestad

Katrina Nannestad grew up in central-western NSW. After studying arts and education at the University of New England in Armidale, she worked as a primary school teacher. Her first teaching job was at a tiny two-teacher school in the bush. Katrina now lives near Bendigo with her husband and two sons.


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