by Carine Engelbrecht
Once upon a time … those four words are all it takes to unlock the magical world of fairy tales. When you read your child one of these classic books for kids, you are tapping into a tradition that goes back thousands of years. Storytellers had a special place in societies as diverse as Ireland, Morocco and Aboriginal Australia and were once the custodians of oral history. Today, the written word has replaced the storyteller in adult society, but the time-honored tradition of reading books for kids remains an essential part of the bedtime ritual in many households. For most children, it is also the first step towards literacy training.
Try these tricks to whisk your children off to the magical world of make believe. They work even for kids who do not (yet) love to read:
This will introduce your child to the concept of character. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have with this strategy. Make your voice thick and gruff, when vocalizing a monster part. Lower your voice to do adult characters and affect a squeaky pitch, like a creaking door, when doing a witch part. Your child’s widening eyes or squeals of delight should be ample reward for your efforts.
Trick 2: Use dramatic pauses
Are you getting to the scary part of the story? Read slowly and pause just when something suspenseful is about to happen. This will keep your child on the edge of his or her seat and increase the tension of the story.
Trick 3: Emphasize the ritualistic and memorable parts
Children love repetition, alliteration and rhymes. Segments like the “trip-trap-trip-trap” of the Three Billy Goats Gruff crossing the bridge and the “fie-fi-fo-fum” of Jack and the Bean Stalk become like verbal landmarks to your child. These are the parts he or she will remember best and anticipate in future readings. Tap each part of the rhyme with your finger as you read through it. Invite your child to join in and own that part of the story.
Children are naturals at role-playing, whether they are mothering a doll or playing cops and robbers in the yard. With just a little improvisation, you can introduce this element to story time. Stuffed animals or dolls can be employed as props, while makeshift apparel, like a red blanket or towel, can become Little Red Riding Hood’s costume.
Trick 5: Engage your child’s imagination
Reading books for kids ignites their imagination. Take it a step further by encouraging your child to visualize the story in his or her own manner. Drawing allows children to express their feelings about the story, and it has other benefits as well. Your child will grow more comfortable with writing materials and develop the motor skills needed later, when learning to write.
Trick 6: Prompt your child to fill in certain blanks
Reading games for kids can take many forms. It can involve a question break in the storytelling, to ask them what they think will happen next, for example. If the story is familiar, children can chime in with the answer in their own words.
Trick 7: Discuss the story with your child
Reading books for kids can provide great entertainment. The real objective, though, should be preparing your child for the next stage of development – learning to read independently. Is your child ready for this step? An important indicator is discovering whether your child understands the story, and the best way of finding out is through discussion. Can he or she retell the gist of a story in his or her own words? If the answer is yes, your child’s reading comprehension is on track.
Trick 8: Introduce your child to the alphabet – one letter at a time
My sister’s teacher began the process with a single letter. On one auspicious day, Mr L visited class. More letters were gradually added, and soon there were enough to build simple words. One advantage to this approach is that you don’t need to teach your child all 26 letters before he or she begins to connect letters and building comprehensible words. Once your child is able to recognize a few simple words, the learning process becomes rewarding and he or she will be eager to continue.
Several of my friends learned to read with read-along tape versions of popular stories. One of them, now a published author, remembers Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat as her particular favorite. By combining text with an audio soundtrack, children learn to put the two together through repetition.
Trick 10: Comics can bridge the gap
A friend of mine who home-schools her two daughters found that they were all too happy to let her continue in her role as the designated reader. She needed a tactic to nudge them towards doing that on their own. She found the magic trick was introducing them to Asterix comics. With the visual appeal of larger than life characters, combined with vivid drama, humor and speech bubbles, the lines between text and image began to blur and her girls were drawn into the story. A key part of teaching kids to read is giving them something they want to read.
Trick 11: Make games your ally
Whether it’s a board game, a computer game or a word puzzle, most children have naturally inquiring minds and love tackling mysteries and puzzles. Wordsearch and junior scrabble are well established favorites that teach letter recognition and basic word building, but other types of reading games for kids can be used to lay a solid foundation for future readers.
Trick 12: Hook them through their interests
As a young kid, I loved horses and devoured any books I could find on them. Another friend of mine struggled with reading, until an understanding teacher found him some books on pirates. Once children discover that books can bring them closer to their favorite things, whether it is fairies, unicorns, knights in armor or creepy reptiles, the battle is half won.
For many kids, reading becomes highly addictive once they start off on a book series they can relate to. It does not matter whether it is Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, Narnia or the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Bonding with books is an essential part of discovering the joys of reading.
Trick 14: Discover the fun of reading through PonyApps
The interactive fairy tales produced by PonyApps can be a true lifesaver for busy moms, promoting many of the tactics mentioned above. In auto play mode, your child will be read to along to an adjustable audio track. Throughout each tale there are plenty of games woven throughout to keep him or her engaged. Through these classic tales and educational games for kids, your child will learn that reading can be lots of fun.