Children Love Your Stories

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Oral skills include both speaking and listening, and are at the root of literacy. Listening to the rhythm of the language spoken around them will help your children discover the rules of that language. When your children experiment with their voices, they will try to mimic how you speak to them. The words they understand best and use first are the ones that represent what is most important to them, such as names or titles of family members or pets, or their favourite foods and toys. As their understanding of the language expands, so does their vocabulary.

Some simple ways you can expose your children to language are to:

  • Narrate what you are doing around them as if you are telling a story—while you are diapering, bathing or feeding for instance
  • Make up stories or retell stories
  • Tell them what you were like as a child or what they were like as newborns
  • Tell them over and over again about the many things related to what they love most—their families and themselves

Babies and toddlers will pay close attention to a rhyme or story they hear repeatedly to pick out words they are familiar with. When you repeat your story several times, toddlers understand the beginning, middle and end, anticipating what happens next. You can expand your stories as your children gain more experience.

It is important for children to have a good understanding of the mechanics of their language before they can move to the next step—reading and writing! Singing rhymes to your children increases their phonemic awareness, among other things. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds—phonemes—in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work.

Young children, who have been exposed to a rich vocabulary and ways to use it, can become the storytellers. It is a great exercise for a preschooler to be able to retell what happened yesterday, what they saw at the zoo, or what a grandparent gave them on their birthday. They have to remember in what order the things happened without a picture book to help with the story. They may get the details mixed up, but encourage them to tell their story the way they recall it. They are learning how to remember the beginning, middle and end. They are trying to put the correct words in place of images in their minds. Prompt them if needed.

One of the best experiences I have had as a parent is sitting around a table, living room, or campfire with my children, friends and extended family, retelling stories of our past. My older children have heard these stories so many times, they are eager to share them with  the youngest family members. “Tell the one about you and Uncle when you were…” the little ones might say! There are so many stories for them to pick from! Our family shares stories of our elders who are now gone, and our children can retell some of them as if they were there themselves.

So another important thing that happens with oral storytelling, especially when it is about your family, is the bonding that brings you together. Every family has a story! Don’t forget to teach yours to your children, especially since many of our families are spread around the world.

Sing with your child, talk with your child, read with your child, play with your child, everyday!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind in Edmonton and find a program near you.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

Introducing Babies to the Classics

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With both gift giving guides and “Best of 2015″ articles flying at us from every direction, I think it’s safe to say that you are going to see at least a few lists of recommended book titles at this time of year.

But rather than try to convince you that I know which specific books are going to work best for you and your baby, I am going to ask you to think about which books meant the most to you when you were very young. While most of us will have no memories going quite that far back, maybe there is another family member you could ask. Or even if you can only remember the books you enjoyed as a preschooler or from your first few years of school, those books could do the trick if you remember them fondly.

In Books for Babies, we talk about a number of different aspects of books that will appeal to babies, but sometimes nothing will matter more to a baby than the things that are important to you. They can see it in your face and hear it in your voice when you are sharing a story that is special to you. They might not even understand what you’re talking about, but they can be irresistibly drawn to that kind of genuine warmth and care.

That, in my opinion, is what will make a book a classic to your child. And while nostalgia probably isn’t the best measure of literary greatness, it is a perfect demonstration of how we learn everything through relationships.

If you ever ask someone about their favourite book, they will probably defend it as if they are defending a part of themselves. That doesn’t just happen. That kind of bonding is very similar to the bonding that happens between close friends. By sharing books with babies, we are teaching them to relate to books in a way that connects to them personally.

I know not everyone has had a positive experience with books in their past, so I won’t try to tell you that a best-of list is not a useful tool. We even have our own lists of recommended books available on our website.

But don’t limit yourself to books either. If there is a family story or memory that you hold close, that is a perfect gift to share with your baby, even if it was never written down.

Books for Babies Edmonton program schedule

hashtag: #books_for_babies

Family Storytelling

In family literacy, we often talk about the importance of oral storytelling. One way to support this is to encourage parents to tell children the story of their birth. This not only encourages their language development, but also creates the bond that comes from sharing experiences and memories together. It can quickly become a family tradition with children asking, “Mommy, please tell me about when I was born again.”

As a twist on this, I called my mother today to wish her a Happy 71st Birthday and realized that I had heard stories about her childhood before but never the story of when she was born.  So I asked her and we spent the next hour sharing this and many other stories about her time growing up.  This rich history and memory sharing is so valuable to all of our families.

Have you talked to your mother about the story of her birth?  I encourage you to do so.  We made many memories today during our sharing!