We’re very excited to welcome parenting expert Sue Atkins as a guest blogger. Sue will be here each month, sharing her thoughts about parenting and reading. In her first post, she writes about how story time is a wonderful way for parents to start conversations with their children.
Story Time and Talking to Your Children
By Sue Atkins
Reading is one of the best educational activities you can do with your children. It’s a chance to have lively and fun conversations in a relaxed way. So how do you do it? Whether you are reading printed or digital books, there are certain tips to keep in mind. In fact, Magic Town can help you learn these skills. Each of the stories, or Livebooks, in Magic Town has four different reading modes which can serve as a guide.
Open-Ended Questions: You can start a conversation by asking open-ended questions. For example, ask your child, “What’s your favourite part of the story?” “Why did that bit make you laugh?” “Why do you think the dog jumped in the pond?” “Who opened the door?” “How did he get there so quickly?” Magic Town’s Livebooks can help parents learn what type of questions to ask. In “Explore” mode of a Livebook, the story’s narrator stops at key points to ask reading comprehension questions.
“What Happens Next?” Ask your child about what might happen next in the story. Children learn more when they are actively engaged in conversation, as opposed to passively listening. So just as the plot begins to thicken, ask “Do you think the rabbit ran away?” Agree on a plot direction and ask for more details: “Where do you think the rabbit went?” Or, “Who went with him?” You can also ask your child to make up the ending. Magic Town’s “Read Together” mode gives either an adult or child the chance to read the text out loud. There’s thus plenty of time to talk about what has already happened, and what could be around the corner.
Have a Dialogue: Talk with your child, not at him or her. When you talk with your child, it’s a two-way dialogue. Talking at your child is a one-way conversation. So just be mindful of not dominating the conversation too much. Let your child express himself.
Pause While Reading: After the hundredth reading of a favourite story, you may find your child has actually memorised parts of the text. This opens the door to a great opportunity to let your child shine, and practice ever-developing verbal skills. Begin reading the story, and then pause occasionally so your child can fill in the blanks. Prompt him if necessary, and encourage him to repeat the next part after you. Each time you read the book, pause at a different point in the story so your child can develop new skills and enjoying chatting with you. Magic Town’s “Play” mode of a Livebook can help here, too. With Play, a narrator reads the story, and then stops at key points; the child has to click on a flashing spot on the screen to advance the story to the next page. The spot directly relates to what is happening in the story, so this can help parents develop a sense of pacing and where to pause.
Relax: Even though it’s always important to talk together, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and relax. Magic Town’s “Watch” mode for Livebooks gives both parents and children a chance to listen to a narrator and watch lightly animated illustrations. Sometimes, at the end of the day, this can be a nice way to wind down.
Bottom line, the best way to get conversations started is to make sure that you are not in a hurry and have plenty of time to enjoy and savor reading, chatting and sharing stories together. You’ll build memories that last a lifetime.
Sue Atkins is the author of the books “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” and “Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy, Children.”