October Mamas & Papas: How to Read for Early Literacy and Tell Stories without Books

From playing to talking and reading with your little one, literacy begins early and vocabulary grows exponentially the more your child grows and engages with his/her surroundings.

This past month Jacki Fulwood and Betsy Bybell of the Latah County Library discussed encouraging literacy and storytelling in our children. Literacy starts early, with a child’s listening vocabulary growing significantly the more s/he hears and engages with text. Talking about what your day looks like, singing songs, drawing and coloring, all begin the literacy process—even if your child is pre-verbal. Playing labeling games with your small child is one great way to engage him/her—“Where is your nose?” “Do you see the window? It’s shaped like a square.”

As s/he gets a little older, it’s important to include open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions as this will engage the child on a more thoughtful level. Read to your child every day. Ask questions about the book. Discuss the plot/characters/meaning/colors/shapes/animals that can be found in the book being read. Wordless picture books? Take turns telling each other the story.

One way to engage your child in creative play which also helps develop language is to provide open-ended “toys,” i.e. boxes, scarves, etc. In play, objects represent other objects just as printed words represent objects and concepts when they begin to read. To encourage pre-writing skills, you can take masking tape and tape a name in the grass so the child can hop, skip, somersault his/her name. Use air-dry clay to shape and paint letters. Write letters and/or words in the condensation found on the shower door. Different textures can engage all types of learners.

Storytelling without reading from a book usually results in people listening to the story differently. If you want to engage your family in a bookless storytelling journey, you can either tell known stories (fairy tales, campfire tales, etc.) or personal stories. If you decide to go the personal tale route, think of some story prompts—What was your favorite toy growing up? When did you get into big trouble with your family? What was your favorite or least favorite family vacation growing up? Once you have an outline of how you’ll tell your tale, you can utilize some storytelling tips taken from Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, the authors of Children Tell Stories and other storytelling books:

  • Change your voice. Use expression!
  • Change your volume.
  • Vary your tempo/speed to reflect/emphasize action.
  • Use pauses or silence.
  • Change your pitch.
  • Use character voices where necessary.
  • Emphasize certain words.
  • Use facial expression.
  • Use gestures to help listeners see pictures in their minds.
  • Look at the audience.
  • If your audience is distracted, shorten the story, add expression, add movement, add singing.

(Some) Books to Get You Started:

- Margaret Read MacDonald's books, including: Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk About; Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About; The Storyteller’s Start up Book; and Three-Minute Stories
Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss books, including: How and Why StoriesStories in my Pocket: Tales Kids Can Tell; and Through the Grapevine: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell

Mamas and Papas Topics for October

October 5, 12, 19 topics: To Be Announced
October 26: Open Discussion. Family Check-in. Bring questions/topics that you would like to discuss.
When: Mondays from 9:30 – 11 a.m.
Where: Uma Center (414 South Jefferson Street, Moscow—the corner of 5th and Jefferson)
Who: All interested participants are encouraged to attend!

Each Mamas and Papas Group Meeting features a speaker on a topic that is relevant to expectant parents or parents of children up to two years of age. Childcare assistance will be provided by Co-op volunteers during the meeting. The Co-op Outreach Team will be there with refreshments and samples. We hope to see you in October!