"It's stoooorytiimeeee!" and everyone gathers around you. It is because children love stories. They do!
According to an article in New York Times, reading is super important to a toddler’s intellectual, social, and emotional development. When you read books with toddlers, they take it all in like little sponges: vocabulary and language structure, numbers and math concepts, colors, shapes, animals, opposites, manners, and all kinds of useful information about how the world works.
How to create a fun and engaging storytime with children?
A. Create a calm atmosphere
Reading books with toddlers is also one of the best ways to get them to slow down, sit down and focus for a while. It does not matter if the children can not stay absolutely still or quiet, as long as they do not disturb other children's story time experience.
Make sure that all children have a comfortable spot to sit or lay on, preferably on the floor with maybe some soft cushions. Also, ensure that everyone sees the book, so it is a good idea that the educator sits on a chair higher than the children.
B. Engage children
Before starting the book you can sing a song together just to get everyone's focus. Better yet, choose a song that is connected to the theme of the book! Or you could also come up with a theme song that anticipates that story time is starting! Then children know that when they hear the song, it is time to calm down and listen to a story. Routines are gold.
It’s ok if children interrupt and ask questions during the story because interruptions show that the children are listening. If children don’t seem engaged by the story or words, you can ask what they see in the pictures. Point at things and let children explain what is happening!
Make eye contact with the children, but don’t look for any particular reaction. It may sometimes seem that children are not listening, but they are absorbing the experience in their own way and might surprise you later..!
C. Use gestures, actions, sounds, and facial expressions freely
It is great fun if you can engage all the children in the story while listening in their seats. For example, if a gobbling is opening a door in the book, ask all the children to pretend they are opening the door with you. Or if there is a windy day in the story, ask all the children to blow like a wind! As well as, when someone is going to sleep, encourage the children to close their eyes quietly too.
When reading, try to identify with the characters in the book by converting your voice, making appropriate gestures, and versatile facial expressions. Also, do not hurry with reading too much.
How to choose good books for story time?
A. Respect the children’s preferences
Each child has their individual tastes and opinions. One could be all excited about fairies, as the other one about talking trucks. Encourage children to express what they like about their books, and find more books like those.
Also, you can ask all children to bring their favorite books from home and you will have lovely and interesting books to read for a couple of weeks at least! Each child can have a day in the spotlight when you are reading his or her special book at storytime.
B. Expand the children's world
Sometimes children seem that they are stuck on a certain book or theme. Don’t deny them the books or topics they love, but it is good to introduce them to other worlds as well. Do not be afraid to bring in books that the children have never seen, because all books and all topics can be broken down into little details that you can wonder aloud together!
Also, expand gender roles so that all children get a chance to read about princesses or superheroes no matter what their gender is.
C. Choose books with diverse people
According to an article in New York Times, all children need to see themselves reflected in the picture books around them. If there are children from a member of a racial or ethnic minority, try to find books that feature children who look similar to them. All children benefit from books that show children with different skin tones and ethnicities, and present a variety of cultural traditions, disabilities, and family structures.
Exposing children to the diversity of people in books will prepare them for life in our lovely, diverse world.
PS. More about reading!