Loving to read begins with loving to listen to stories
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What is story-telling?
Story-telling is an art that has mental, social and educational benefits for children. People of all ages love stories. Children, especially, are great fans of stories and love to listen to them over and over again. Story-telling literally means reading stories out loud or telling a story from memory.
Some teachers are afraid of reading stories to young English language learners as they are not proficient in the target language; some teachers think that story-telling will take away from class time, but it doesn’t. Story-telling must be a part of our lessons as it helps our students to practise speaking, listening, reading and writing. However, there are some questions that we must ask ourselves when presenting a story to our young learners:
How do we teach phonemic awareness and phonics in English to students who can’t distinguish the sounds? How is fluency taught if our students do not know the structures of the English language? How do we teach reading comprehension in English when they do not understand the language itself?
Children love stories in English as long as they understand what they are listening to as we read. When we were children, our parents told us stories and we loved the way they used different voices and acted as the heroes or villains.
Reading out loud is the most important thing we can do to prepare our students to read. It enriches children’s vocabulary, establishes the Reading-Writing connection, improves listening comprehension and promotes the joy of reading.
There are some basic principles for using stories:
1. Design a good lesson plan for the activity. Reading a story doesn’t end in the reading. Story lessons should be carefully planned and you should practise the way you are going to read the story using stress and intonation. You can also use audio reading, but real reading creates a more pleasant environment and children love to see you doing it.
2. Preview the vocabulary children should understand and pre-teach it.
3. Create a friendly atmosphere. Have your students sit on the floor and prepare ‘the mood’ for reading.
4. Select a suitable story. When choosing a story, consider the age of your students and what language skills you can develop with it. Show your students the book you are going to read. Ask questions about the cover and ask them to predict what the story is going to be about. Your students’ answers will be in their mother tongue and that is OK – rephrase what they tell you in English. Say the name of the author and illustrators.
5. Start reading the book. Use ‘your reading voice’. Elicit the key words from the reading and give gestures or movements to them. Also give certain movements or gestures to any word or phrase you want your students to remember and repeat. Read in complete phrases. Keep eye contact with your students and engage them in the story. Pause during the reading to help children understand the key words by pointing to the pictures you used when you pre-taught the vocabulary items.
6. Ask students one or two comprehension questions and ask them what they liked about the story.
7. Design story-based activities connected with visual aids like posters, flashcards or cut-outs. Have your students perform the story themselves in front of their peers and maybe even their parents. Story-telling combined with play-based activities gives our students an effective stimulus for early literacy.
8. Make a recording of a story. You can record yourself reading the story and ask parents to download it for their kids. This way, the students will hear your voice and they will be able to enhance their listening skills. You could invite some of them to record the reading with you.
When young learners are exposed to reading by adults and peers, they are getting ready to be good readers. Reading readiness cannot be taught or hurried. It must be developed gradually. There are important skills to develop in our young learners before they start reading and we can work with them while we expose our children to story-telling.
The ability to recognize similarities and differences in objects, pictures, shapes, letters and words.
The ability to remember letter forms and words.
Perceptual motor skills:
Children need hand-eye coordination to track words and a line of print with their eyes. They also need the motor skills to write letters and words.
The eyes must be trained to go from left to right and from the top to the bottom (saccadic movements).
Children must be able to discriminate between various sounds and to hear different sounds before they can associate a particular sound with a letter.
The ability to remember the sounds letters make so they can be reproduced and blended to make words.
Children need first-hand experiences they can relate language and reading to in order to bring meaning to the printed page.
Readiness for books:
Children should know how to open books, turn the pages and care for books.
The ability to put words together to make sentences and to use sentences to convey thoughts and information.
Learning to read involves not only the development of skills, but also a love of reading and books.
Our children are born into a media-soaked environment; they have tablets, smartphones, streaming platforms and apps that engage them with entertainment. Little by little, parents and relevant adults are forgetting to spend time with their little ones. Spending quality time with our kids is the key to helping them love learning, to making them fall in love with reading. They will always remember a good story told from the heart!
Story-telling in not just telling a story. It is a way to bond with our kids as parents and teachers as well.