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Story Time

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]

Mr. Breitsprecher's 2010 Handouts for UW-W Early Childhood Conference

Handout:  Kids Love Multicultural Picture Books!

Here are some suggestions for great books to share! (downloadable, printable .pdf)

Mr. Breitsprecher's Handouts for UW-W Early Childhood Conference

Handout:  Dialogic Reading & Mr. Breitsprecher's Favorite Books
(downloadable, printable .pdf file)


Handout:  Early Literacy- See It Yourself
(downloadable, printable .pdf file)

Sharing stories and picture books is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a children's librarian, early childhood teacher, or early primary school teacher.  Children love being read to, thrive on the extra attention that can be part of story time, and learn important early literacy skills in the process.  Have fun - read to children.  Readers should read in their native language.

Children benefit from being read to from birth - babies, pre-talkers (less than 50 words), talkers, and preschool children.  Babies are a fairly captive audience, short attention spans and eyesight that is still developing.  A newborn does not see clearly past 12 inches or so.  Pre-talkers can see better, are still relatively captive, and also have short attention spans.  Talkers also are crawlers - so they are mobile and easily distracted to other things. 

Kindergarten, first-graders, and second-graders love being read to as well.  This write has never has so much fun - sharing books with young primary students in a school media center is a rewarding experience!  How can a person have a bad day when they are reading Corduroy (by Don Freeman) to Kindergarten students!

When schools and libraries set up story times, they choose themes.  This can also be done at home, but it is probably enough to just talk about pictures or a book before sharing.  This develops narrative skills.  If a child can relate their experiences to the book, it will also make it easier for them to pay attention and follow the story.

Kids love repetition - it's a powerful tool to building memory.  When a child enjoys the same story again and again, it shows that they are learning.  Think about different ideas and perspectives that a book suggests - when re-reading a book, find new ways to talk about it. 

When asking a child a question, be sure to give them time to answer - slowly count to 5 to yourself.  Remember, there are no "wrong" answers.  Strive to give children positive feedback and redirect their attention if you happen to ask a question they are not ready to answer.

Sharing stories, board books, and picture books with children can all be used to develop early literacy skills - the key is how the story or book is shared.  We can build narrative skills and vocabulary based on how we share books with children. 

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

One-To-One Versus Group

As we have seen above, it's the entire experience of a story time that makes it beneficial to a child.  When we share a book with a child, we are sharing a caring environment.  We are demonstrating to that child that they are important.  If we hold a child on our lap while we read, it is always an intimate, loving time for both parent and child.

Interacting with a child on an individual-level is always a better way to interact and build early literacy skills.  Children enjoy a time to share one-to-one with adults.  They benefit from these interactions.  Engaging a child in a dialog is the best way to nurture language development.

Let's be clear - in a group situation, it is not possible to engage each child simultaneously in a meaningful dialog.  When we can talk to individual children (or perhaps a very small group of 2, no more than 3), we can give that child our undivided attention.  No one is excluded from the conversation. 

We can engage that child based on their interests and attention span.  We can direct a conversation based on that child's readiness.  We can redirect that conversation as needed.  We can listen to what a child says and promptly respond.  The child can ask questions.  The child gets immediate answers.

One-to-one means that the child can state their ideas or ask questions.  It no longer matters if a child is shy - a one-to-one exchange feels more comfortable.  If a child needs more time, they get it.  The entire experience is centered around them. 

In a group setting, a discussion has to be directed in a way that often do not reflect the interests or needs of any one child - the goal is to keep the group moving along.  Unfortunately, when we lead a group discussion, each line of questioning means another line of questions was not followed.

We can create valuable story times with groups of children.  We need to understand the limitations of this format.  We need to structure group readings to engage each students.  It helps to get more of the senses involved - music, touch, motion, taste, smell, pictures, video, multimedia.

When possible, try to find ways to engage children one-to-one (or pairs) after they share a group story time.  This will be easier to do if the story time engaged the group, encouraging to think and share along with the story they are hearing.  Try to find ways that they tell the story with you.  The process of helping children become the teller of the story is called dialogic reading.

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Dialogic Reading

Reading to children is important, but it is also important to think about  HOW we read to children.  To benefit from story times, children need to be involved.  The traditional way of reading a book builds listening skills.  If we want to help children get ready to read, we want to do more. 

Dialogic reading gets a child involved as an active participant or even a storyteller.  Start by choosing books that children can participate in, books that repeat words for children to say, that invite children to respond through the story, or provide opportunities to ask "what happens next?"  It is easiest to use books that:

bulletHave clear, attention-grabbing picture.
bulletPresent a simple story, one that children can follow.
bulletUse a short story written with short sentences.
bulletHave pictures about familiar things that children will recognize
bulletUse the pictures to tell important parts of the story.
bulletContain themes or characters that children are interested in.
bulletRepeat phrases so that children can "read" along.

Some good choices to start would include:

bulletBear Snores On, by Karma Wilson, and the rest of her bear books.
bulletDon't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and other books in the Pigeon series by Mo Willems.
bulletJump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan.
bulletLet's Go Froggy! and the other books in this series by Jonathon London.
bulletMama Cat Has Three Kittens and other books by Denise Fleming.
bulletMoose Tracks, by Karma Wilson.
bulletThe Big Honey Hunt, by Stan and Jan Bernstein (ask if each idea to find honey is a good idea).

Creating a more engaging story time, having children become the story tellers can be done in steps.

  1. Read the book as written, asking children to identify parts of the action illustrated by the pictures and having children repeat any phrases that are used repetitiously in the book.
  2. Choose a page from he book with an attractive picture that illustrates action.  Ask children "what" questions (what they are seeing, what is happening, what will happen next, etc.).  Be prepared to give children time to answer - they are still developing these skills.
  3. Extend the answers they give you.  For example, if they say, "the pigeon found a hot dog", you could say, "yes, the pigeon found a hot dog, a hot dog in a bun that is half eaten.
  4. Ask children to repeat your extended answer.  Be prepared to give children time to restate the extended answer - they are still developing these skills.
  5. DO NOT ask questions that can be answered yes/no or by pointing.

Traditional story times emphasize listening skills and promote an understanding of the continuity of a story (beginning, middle, and end).  Developing this type of "sense of a story" is important, but so are other early literacy skills.

Dialogic reading builds vocabulary and narrative skills.  It helps children relate a story to their life experiences.  To get the most of story times, children should hear stories in different ways.  As always, the book should be fun for the children and for the reader.  We motivate children to read when they see us enjoy great books.

Try incorporating dialogic reading into story times.  It takes some practice to feel comfortable with it, but it is fun for both the children and adults present.  Children enjoy being part of the story telling.  You will enjoy the creative ways children share ideas about books. 

Dialogic story times probably take more time.  It is probably harder to plan how long a given book will take to share, but, with practice, you will become comfortable using this interactive approach, adopting it to fill whatever time constraints you have to work with.

Please think of dialogic reading as another tool in your early literacy toolbox.  Try to find ways to use different styles and formats when you share books with children. 

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

English Language Learners

The key to working effectively with children that are learning English as a second language (English Language Learners or ELL) is to recognize and value their experiences as enrichment.

There is a great deal of transference between different languages. While ELL students may need more time to read, write, and think in a new language – the language (s) that they hear and speak at home helps them get ready to learn English.

Pre-readers and emerging readers need early literacy skills to prepare them to successfully read. This is true regardless of the languages they hear and learn at home. Parents should be encouraged to read and speak to their child in the language that they are comfortable and proficient with, usually their native tongue.

When working with ELL students, support early literacy with minor adaptations to the usual strategies and activities we share with children.

Tips and Tricks: ELL

bulletWhen giving directions, demonstrate actions. Ask children to repeat directions aloud when they engage in the action.
bulletPause, give children “wait and think” time.
bulletParaphrase, restate directions in different ways. Watch for feedback that children understand.
bulletRead books with short, simple sentences. Have students repeat these phrases.
bulletEngage children with dialogic reading – using a book as a springboard into a conversation. One-on-one is ideal, but if not possible, try grouping students by similar abilities.
bulletIf ELL cannot be given special read-alouds, try to find ways to rehearse or prep the before group activities.
bulletLearn children’s names, being careful to pronounce them correctly.
bulletRepeat chants, rhymes, finger plays/rhymes and sing songs.
bulletUse as many different, simple alphabet books as you can find.
bulletRead aloud often – children need to hear the written and spoken work. English is spoken very different than it is written.
bulletFind books that integrate all children’s native cultures.
bulletUse manipulatives – string to shape into letters, food, anything that approximates letter shapes, and word and name cards.
bulletKeep ELL children up front and in the middle of groups. Do not have them sit in back or off to the side.
bulletUse real objects to demonstrate words. If not possible, use pictures. Letting children handle and see things more-fully engages them.
bulletCarefully pronounce words, but accept children’s approximations. English may use very different sounds than their native language.
bulletAs you recognize the sounds that each student has a hard time pronouncing, accept alterations in pronunciation. Sounds like: s, sh, r, l, sh, ch, f, and v can be difficult for ELL children to differentiate.

Charts to match pictures with words can be helpful. Consider making little pocket charts that students can keep handy and take home.

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Print Motivation

Developing interest and enjoyment of books is important - make this easy to do by finding books to share with children that you enjoy.  Read in a way that demonstrates that you love books, the story being shared, and the time you spend with your child.  A cheerful voice is important. 

Don't read to children when you are in a bad mood.  Remember, a few minutes of fun with a book is much more important than a reading session that is tense or stressful.  If the child is not ready for story time or does not seem to be enjoying a book, that's OK.  You can always read more together later.  Don't count how much time you spend reading books, just make sure it is something you share regularly in a positive environment. 

Find a comfortable place to share and hold little children.  Letting a small child rest their head against your chest creates a bond and they hear the deep resonance of your voice.  And don't keep all the fun to yourself - get your child involved - see what they have to say while you read. 

Nonfiction books are probably best - they feature colorful pictures and powerful images.  They also encourage a childe to use their imagination.  Who doesn't love a good picture book?  A good story encourages a child to think about "what happens next" - an important motivator.

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Phonological Awareness

Being able to break words into smaller sounds is important too.  For example, ask a child what "piglet" sounds like without the "pig " (leaving just "let").  Point out the first sound in words - "what sound does 'cat' start with?"  Then ask, "what other words start with that sound?"

Rhyming books are popular with children and represent an important way to build this aspect of phonological awareness.  Show children rhyming words and ask them if word in a story rhyme - "do 'bear' and 'bowl" rhyme?"  or "do 'bear' and 'chair' rhyme?"

Rhythm, cadence, and alliteration are important too.  Songs and simple children's raps use rhythm and cadence extensively.  Point out when a series of words begin with the same sound - Dr. Seus’ ABCs uses alliteration to teach children the alphabet: “Aunt Annie’s alligator…”

The sounds you play with together don't have to be real words.  Made-up words can be fun and teach phonological awareness too.  Point out multi-syllable words.  Clapping for each syllable in a word is fun for a child and helps them understand the different parts of that word.

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Narrative Skills

Being able to describe and explain things is an important skill for preschool children - it gets them ready to read.  Picture books are a wonderful way to encourage children to talk about what they see  and "what will happen next."  Let young children look at the pictures in a book and make up their own story.

Children need to develop a "sense of a story" and learn that each story has a "beginning", "middle", and "end."  As they get older, they can learn that some stories have a "beginning", "problem," and then a "resolution" or solution to that problem.

To start building narrative skills, ask children to repeat phrases or parts of a story.  Using props, puppets or even stuffed animals can be a fun way to ask a child to act out a story.  Be sure to ask children questions while reading stories, give them time to answer (count to 5 to yourself), and be positive about each response - these questions should not have "right" or "wrong" answers.

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Enriched Vocabulary

Research shows it is easier for children to read words they have already heard.  Exposing a child to as many different words as possible gives them a head-start when learning to read.  A larger vocabulary also helps young readers better understand what they have read.

Notice how people speak very different than they write.  The words in books are different than the words used in conversations, on the radio, or on TV.  Reading to children expands their vocabulary.  Talking to children, however, is important too.  Talk to children from birth - in fact - you can talk to your child before birth.  Don't worry if the child understands everything - the important thing is that they are hearing words.  Don't forget to leave time for a child to talk back - even for babies!

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Print Awareness

The printed word is all around us - this is something children need to see.  Give babies board books to handle, part of print awareness is being comfortable with books.  Babies will put things in their mouth, so keep some books that are no longer needed and let your baby have them. 

As baby gets older, be sure to point to the words in a book too - use your finger to follow sentences.  Help them see that we read from left to right, from top to bottom, and from the front of a book to the back.  Don't forget to let your child turn the pages sometimes too.

Point out signs to children - in the grocery store, in parks, anyplace you go.  Make lists with children.  A shopping list is a great activity to share - be sure to say each item as you write it down.  Remember, the child does not need to understand each work on your list, only that each word they hear can be written down too. 

A good way to start is by always showing children the front cover of a book and running your finger along the words as you announce the title, author, and illustrator.  Do this with phrases that repeat in the book too.  Check to see if children are learning how to handle a book, pick one up wrong (upside down or from the back cover) and ask, "is this the right way to hold a book?"

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]

Letter Knowledge

Being able to see that letters are different from each other and can be written in different ways helps children get ready to read.  Before learning to read, children should learn that each letter has a name and relates to specific sounds. 

Try to find books with words in the title that children can relate to - kids love bears - read them bear books.  Be sure to point at the word "bear" and tell them the beginning letter is "B" and say the sound that this letter makes.

There are many fun, creative alphabet books - remember, we are not concerned with teaching the A, B, Cs right now.  We want to start by letting children to see the differences between letters and sounds.  This starts by talking about shapes - circles, triangles, straight lines - the shapes that we use to draw letters.  Talk about how the shapes of letters are alike and how they are different.

Get different senses involved - hand them balls for round objects, blocks for squares and rectangles.  Find triangular-shaped toys to handle.  Point out the straight edge on objects.  Cookies are great for this - you can make (or buy) them in different shapes and children can enjoy eating the shapes too!

When they are ready, start reinforcing the names of the letters by talking about the first letter in the things they are interested in.  Moving blocks with letters or magnetic letters is fun.  Children will also enjoy making letter shapes with play dough.

[I Love It When You Read Multicultural Picture Books to Me!]
[One-To-On vrs Group] [Dialogic Reading] [ELL]
[Print Motivation] [Phonological Awareness] [Narrative Skills]
[Enriched Vocabulary] [Print Awareness] [Letter Knowledge]
[Top]
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