How much you should be reading to your kids | Truth and Relief
Storytelling is in a state of transformation, with Disney Junior The Channel on the cusp of introducing their second season of ‘The Book of Once Upon a Time’ and leading the way in modern televised interactive storytelling. It is just one example of the different ways that storytelling is unfolding for our children and it is a development worth understanding.
Despite the modernisation of storytelling, it is all still bound by a story’s common ability to take the listener or reader on a journey outside their own lives. How we tell the story hasn’t changed this. As a parent I am still obviously struggling with this realisation; evidenced by the fact that I have yet to sign my son up for the school’s ebook library. I actually remember saying to my husband, “but why would we do that when there are books?”. Is it about the books though, or is it about engaging our children in storytelling, whatever that looks like?
I love this quote from Anzali from Iran Via Humans of New York
“I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.” (Anzali, Iran)
How Much My Kids Read
Kids, especially early readers, do read every day. From the grocery list, to the Pokemon cards they trade at school, right through to their iPad games like Scribblenauts. In terms of actual story books, we have organised my older reader to read to his younger brother some nights. We also go through a reader with my prep student most nights (MOST being the opportune word to use in an exposé like this). My youngest, who is 3, possibly gets a couple of books read to her a week, including those read at Kindy *gasp!*. Today kids are exposed to more words on a daily basis than they were a couple of generations ago, in the times when my grandmother was having to walk 5 miles through the snow to get to school every day. Think about it. Every single place we go, in every bit of television we watch, within every magazine we scan, and in every Minecraft game that is played, we are exposed to words words words. Not stories necessarily (before you call me on that), but words none the less. In fact, I would suggest, there is a lot less storytelling today but a lot more words and reading going on.
How Much I Read To My Kids
My kids are read to from tangible books, by me, more than a couple of times a week (on top of set homework reading). I do not read to them every single day. We also use an audio book some nights before sleep time. In my defence, sometimes we read more than one book in a day, sometimes we story tell just with the spoken word. Sometimes we go to bed with music.
When my children are read to by me, it involves A LOT of energy. Which sometimes at 8.30pm I ‘m just not up to. I’m certain some of you thinking “Surely you just get it done?”. Maybe I could. But I also believe in quality over quantity when it comes to storytelling because I think my children do get a lot of quantity whether I read to them or not.
I read when I am most excited, and I try to do it as often as I can, but my engagement is completely linked to their engagement and in turn will help to determine their attitude to reading in general. They won’t remember if I don’t read to them here and there, but they will remember when I am fairly average at reading (or worse they won’t remember me ever reading at all).
Why Parents Don’t Read As Much These Days
Many parents work at full-time jobs that see their kids attending before and after school care, long day care hours, and often the school part of the week is placed into the hands of OTHERS for the majority of the waking day. Parents arrive home, dinner needs to be cooked, baths need to be had and homework done. Somewhere in there, dinner needs to be eaten, hopefully with some awesome dinner conversation (because, let’s face it, sometimes that is the only time a 2 way conversation will be happening on a week night). Finally, when the weekend arrives, it is time for sport and all sorts of other commitments, including cleaning the home. It is no wonder quality storytelling has become the ideal more often than the reality. I am sure many parents READ to their kids but I wonder how many are storytelling. This isn’t about guilt, this is about letting go of the guilt and finding ways to fill the gaps.
Other reasons I see parents not reading as much is because they don’t have time to get to library, they can’t afford to buy the books their kids want to read and in some cases they just don’t know what books will engage their children.
Modern Day Story Telling
There is less storytelling but more words.
I wrote this line again because I am of the absolute belief that reading is not necessarily storytelling. It was hard to sum up what storytelling was, but I found this >>>
Stories may not actually breathe, but they can animate. The breath imputed by this book’s title is the breath of a god in creation stories, as that god gives life to the lump that will become human. Stories animate human life; that is their work. Stories work with people, for people, and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided. What is it about stories—what are their particularities—that enables them to work as they do? More than mere curiosity is at stake in this question, because human life depends on the stories we tell: the sense of self that those stories impart, the relationships constructed around shared stories, and the sense of purpose that stories both propose and foreclose. (Arthur Frank, Letting Stories Breathe (2010) http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9676.pdf)
What Modern Day Storytelling looks like
Many families have a tradition of reading a book together at bed time, and children love this predictable routine. However, if you’re tired of reading the same old books you’ve got at home, or if you’re away on holidays and have forgotten to pack books, e-books will be your saviour. You can download them to your smart phone, tablet or laptop, usually for a small fee. Some will have the option of having them read by a narrator as part of the download. Savvy parents will always have an e-book downloaded in readiness for those times when they find themselves stuck in a waiting room, traffic jam or meeting. This is especially awesome when you have decided to start reading a series such as the Treehouse series and you realise that you can’t find one in the series- this could just be saving grace.
Here are some great digital libraries to access –
https://www.getepic.com/ can give you instant access to unlimited kids books via Android and Apple
http://en.childrenslibrary.org/ provides a collection of internationally themed kids digital books
http://magicblox.com/ features a collection of e-books for kids ages 1-13
Many people now rely on portable DVD players for entertainment during those gruelling long distance car or plane trips, however, audio books are the perfect alternative to help kids pass the time. They are available on CD, or you can download them to phones, tablets or laptops. Most public libraries also lend audio books at no charge. Some of the ones we have listened to include the Magic Faraway Tree and a compilation of Roald Dahl novels which you can purchase via the Book Depository (who offer free postage world wide).
Books and toys with audio/storytelling components
There are so many products on the market that will read to your children and help them improve their literacy skills. From storytelling teddy bears to Leap Books, these toys also encourage your children to follow along with the words as they are being read to. If your child can’t get enough of books, this makes the perfect present for their next birthday or special occasion.
Online literacy programs
Reluctant readers may benefit from one of the many online literacy programs that are available, such as Reading Eggs or Literacy Planet. Children can use the computer to access these programs that seek to improve reading ability through fun and interactive games, quizzes and activities. There are even online readers available, some for free, which will highlight the words as your child is reading them, or as they are being read aloud by a narrator.
Interactive Television Storytelling
Storytelling has been on television for a while; featuring on Playschool and even Romper Room back in the eighties. Books are commonly transferred to television and some popular characters in books are simply transformed in their sketched state to television. Until now, nighttime television has never really been about this though. Which I guess is what makes the introduction of Disney Juniors nighttime storytelling programming so different. It makes total sense, because nighttime is fast becoming the busiest time for parents; not like 10am may have been 30 years ago.
Technology aside, there is always going to be something special about curling up in bed with a classic children’s book and reading with all abandon. There is something almost wizardry in the way in which it can engage a child and bring them closer to you, all the one simple act of storytelling.