The Magic of Story Time

The Magic of Story Time

Brianne Anderson

“When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox

Mem Fox is a hugely prolific Australian author whose picture books have graced our library shelves for years. Her quote above perfectly describes what we strive for every day at the Library- to make reading a fun and enjoyable activity for children (and parents!) instead of something prescribed.  

Even before your child is born, you become their most important teacher. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, or how much formal education you have; your child listens, learns, pays attention to and instantly identifies with how you live your life. They watch how you spend your free time, how you treat other people, and especially how you care for them. They will use your actions as a guide to make sense of the confusing world around them.

Woah... no pressure, right? What could possibly go wrong!?

Besides core guiding principles like family and/or any religious practices you follow, etc. reading to your children and building a love of reading is one of the best and most enriching gifts you can give your children. Research shows that young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to. Even kids who are read only one book a day will hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who aren’t read to regularly.

Kids are not only learning vocabulary words when being read to either. Reading builds neural pathways in the brain that connect social and emotional development, cognition, narrative skills, and so much more. Children who are read to regularly also learn to handle emotional changes more smoothly.

If reading isn’t part of your daily routine — or if you want to make it a more positive experience — here are some tips for making the most of your time:

Start young, read often. Reading to babies helps build bonds, vocabulary, and habits. If reading a story is part of the bedtime routine from infancy or toddlerhood, your child will take the lead in making sure this happens every night. If you have older children- it’s not too late! Children of all ages benefit from hearing stories read aloud, so ask your librarian for a great chapter book read-aloud and jump right in. Even just a chapter a night makes a difference.

Talk through what you see and hear. There is so much more to the reading experience than just reading aloud the words on the pages. Kids can handle interruption to the story and actually benefit from taking time to stop and talk along the way. Helping kids make connections between what they read and the world around them builds resiliency. Examples:

  • This grandfather in the story reminds me of your Papa. Look he likes to bake cookies just like Papa does.
  • That girl with the glasses looks just like you with your new glasses!
  • That kid in the story wasn’t very nice. Have you ever heard anyone say mean things like that? How did it make you feel?

Press the pause button. Some nights, it’s tempting to rush through books on the way to “lights out,” but sometimes it’s important to press pause even before starting. Some nights, everyone might just be exhausted and ready to go to bed. Reading shouldn’t be a “chore” or obligation. Yes, it’s important, but it’s also important to maintain the routine when everyone is receptive and ready for the interaction. Don’t force it.

Storytime is not some miracle solution to the challenges of raising young kids, but over time, the benefits of family reading add up. And if you need help, the Youth Services staff would be happy any time to help you find your next great read-aloud.