Why should you be reading to children? You’re a busy person and they have TV, videos, CD’s, DVD’s. These things have professional storytellers, animation, music.
But they don’t have YOU. You sharing. You listening and responding as the child looks at the pictures and comments on the stories.
Reading to children creates a bond. You cuddle up in an easy chair or on the bed at bedtime. You enjoy each other’s company while you explore new worlds.
Reading boosts a child’s imagination. Children play out the stories in their heads. They are picturing, imagining, creating. And you share those moments with them.
Reading encourages a child to act, to do. Just as they see a story in their mind’s eyes, they also see actions. Leslie cleans her house. Jerry plants a garden. Johnny hits a home run. An athlete can improve his game by imagining himself hitting a home run.
Playing out actions in their mind’s eye improves children’s abilities to do the same things.
Reading to children develops their language skills. Your everyday vocabulary is often limited and repetitive. When you read to them, you expose them to different topics and words and phrases they don’t hear on a daily basis. When it comes to learning new words, the more, the merrier.
Whether you think you are a good reader or not, your voice, your telling a story to your child is a warm, friendly, magical moment.
My father was not a good reader. He had a monotone voice. When the wolf was scaring the heroine, he didn’t sound like a wolf. He didn’t sound like the little girl either. But good or bad, I loved when my father read to me.
It’s a known fact that children who are read to become better readers. And it should happen early. You can read very simple books to a two year old. By the time a child is three, you had better be reading to him or her in earnest! There are the most impressionable years, and what children learn to love stays with them throughout their lives.
I was read to so much as a child, I was upset they weren’t going to teach me how to read in kindergarten. When they finally did in first grade, I learned rapidly. I wanted to have that great pleasure that comes from books.
How do you read to a child? Of course, you read to find out what happens. Be interested. Don’t just read – pause and ask questions. Be open to the child’s thoughts and opinions.
If you can, be angry if the character is angry. Be scared if the character is scared. Cry, laugh. Have the child say something after you–“Fee, Fie, Fo Fum!”
Many children’s stories are make believe. Make believe is pretending. So, pretend! Have fun! Let the child in you come out. Let the magic inside of you, the wonder, the surprise, the excitement come to the fore and spill out of you.
As much as you can, involve the child in the story. Reading to a child is a two way street. Have the child take part.
In my Happiness Fables, I invite children’s participation. The Happiness Fables are stories like the famous Aesop fables, with more modern day morals and where the children guess “the lesson of the story.”
When I tell the first fable to a group of children, I invite a great deal of participation. Here is “The Tale of Mrs. Rhinoceros” in full. In parenthesis I have put what you can say to a child to invite participation. Try it out.
THE TALE OF MRS. RHINOCEROS
Mrs. Rhinoceros was a very lovely lady. She sang to the meadows. She sang to the treetops. (“La, la, la, la. You sing like that la, la, la, la.”) All the little birds came to eat berries she left for them by the old birdbath, (“Let me hear the birds – tweet, tweet, tweet”) and she always left food for all the stray cats in the neighborhood. (“Let me hear the cats, meow, meow”).
But there was one thing wrong! She didn't take care of herself. Not a bit!
She didn't take a bath every day; she didn't brush her teeth or polish her horn.
Instead of eating vegetables from the garden, she ate hurry-up-food-in-the-box (“Let me see you eating hurry up food in the box”) which wasn't fresh and natural. Instead of sleeping, sleeping, (“Let me hear you sleeping” - you snore) she sat up all night talking, talking (“Let me hear you talking – bip, bip. bip. bip”) and watching television with her sick friend, Matilda Porcupine.
Then one day, she was lying in bed feeling very tired and a wonderful butterfly came to visit her. (“Let me see a butterfly” – you wave your arms)
"Mrs. Rhinoceros," the butterfly said. "It is very good that you are taking such good care of others, but you should also take care of __________________."
That’s an example. Have fun with it. Don’t worry if you aren’t the world’s greatest storyteller. You are the loving parent, friend, grandparent, guardian who is sharing precious moments with a child. Truth be, you are creating the stories together. Enjoy!
Mz Goose, the Modern Day Mother Goose is Elyse Aronson-Van Breemen’s trademarked name. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Speech and Theater, Elyse took on the persona in 1982 and has performed as a puppet-storyteller at festivals, libraries, malls, bookstores across the U.S., including the famed White House Easter Egg Roll. She has entertained hundreds of children at Mz Goose Happy Birthday parties.
Elyse has been featured in Washington Times, Tampa Tribune, Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Baton Rouge State Times, Lady’s Circle Magazine, St. Charles Chronicle and Clearwater Beacon, and has appeared on radio and TV talk shows and was showcased on Ted Turner’s “Nice People”, WTBS Television.
She is known for her non-violent nursery rhymes and stories. She self published The Rhymes and Songs of Mz Gooseand “The Happy Without Drugs Song.” She authored the Mz Goose Color Me Cookbook, a sugarless, healthful, easy to do cookbook, published by LaFray Publishing, which sold 8,000 in Florida.
Elyse wrote columns as Mz Goose for The Health Press, The Weekly Challenger, The Suncoast News, The Suncoast Journal, Mother’s Network, Senior Connection (a “Creative Grandparent” column).
She taught creative writing to gifted children at National Lewis University in Illinois, creative dramatics to children at IVS School of Music in Oak Park, Illinois, creative writing and creative dramatics to gifted children and emotionally handicapped children at St. Pete Junior College in Florida, and to children at a Glen Ellyn, Illinois preschool. Her purpose is to provide children with uplifting literature that increases their imagination and creativity; to bring the literature to life through the art of storytelling, to inspire and encourage children to create aesthetic products through creative dramatics, creative writing and movement, utilizing music as well.