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Making Story Time Count


Young girl reading a book using her fingers to follow the words on the page.
Young girl reading a book using her fingers to follow the words on the page.

It’s widely known how important reading is. We don’t read much during the day at our house, but I always make a point to read to my daughter every single night no matter what. Due to our crazy summer schedule, she was up until almost 11:00 last night. I told her only one book, but she somehow convinced me to read two. My point being that even though it was entirely too late, I stuck to our routine and read to her.


Since we stay pretty busy during the day, whether that’s because we’re outside, at work or school, etc., I make sure to make our special bedtime story time count. Sometimes we read 5 or 6 books, and sometimes one book lasts for twenty minutes because of the ways we talk about the book and extend the reading. If you’re like us and get super busy in the summer, I’m going to talk about a few ways to get book time in and to make the little bit of book time you have really count.


1. Leave books everywhere! Even if you don’t have time to read, chances are, your kids might occasionally look at it by themselves. We have books in the bathroom, the living room, set up purposefully on the toy shelf, in the car, and of course, hundreds of books in the bedrooms. Books in the car are one of my favorite ways to get my daughter to look at books by herself. It’s great for kids to start looking at books and making up stories by themselves, so this is the perfect opportunity for that (although my daughter doesn’t yet understand why I can’t read to her while I’m driving).


2. Ask lots of questions and teach your little ones how to ask you questions. My daughter actually taught me this. I think she uses it as a tactic to make bedtime as long as possible. Before I even start the book, she asks me questions about the first pages. She asks questions like, “which color do you like?” or “which food is your favorite?” and “which one are you, which one is Daddy, etc.” (trying to figure out which characters from the book we would choose). We can learn a lot from her questions I think; asking these questions starts rich discussions about the book and causes us to talk more in depth about the characters and specific parts of the book.


a. I ask her more detailed questions that cause her to think hard, like, “what would you do if that happened to you?” and “what should the character do now?” or “what do you think is going to happen next?” Learning standards can be easily snuck into reading time in the form of questions.

Examples of Questions for Different Subjects

  • Math: How many cars are there? What are the different types of cars? Which ones are the biggest and which are the smallest?

  • Science: Can you tell which season it is based on what this tree looks like? How do you know? What do you think the caterpillar will do after he eats all of that food? Why do you need to eat food?

  • Language: Look at all of the bats, do you know that bats come out when it’s dark and use “echolocation”. Can you say echolocation?

  • Literacy: Can you find some of the letters in your name? What about M for Mommy? Do you know which letter Grandma starts with? See the alligator, the beginning of alligator sounds like “ah, ah, ah, alligator”.

  • Social and emotional: Wow, look at that boy’s face. How is he feeling? Have you ever felt like that? Why, what happened? What do you do if you’re feeling angry? If your friend was really sad, how would you help?

3. Read books over and over. Yes, it can get old. But repetition is great for kids. My daughter can now retell the story herself in the books that we’ve read a million times. It also teaches them how to start looking at books by themselves and looking at the pictures to try to figure out what’s going on and then make up their own story. These are great early reading skills for kids. Check out this article about repetitive reading, https://www.firstfiveyears.org.au/early-learning/why-repetitive-reading-helps-your-child!


4. Sneak in book time no matter what! Even five minutes counts. More important than the book itself is the one-on-one time for you and your little ones to snuggle up and bond together.


An older man reading to a book to a young boy while lying on the floor.
An older man reading to a book to a young boy while lying on the floor.

 

Meghan is a born and raised Montanan, mama to a rambunctious toddler and a bonus mom to two amazing preteens. She recently earned a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. In addition to her position as an Early Childhood Specialist at the University of Montana, Meghan enjoys a variety of odd mix of jobs; nannying, creating and selling travel play dough kits, making essential oil blends for kids, providing families with child guidance on Facebook and Instagram, and now providing ideas and tips to child care providers in partnership with Raise Montana! Meghan is also a content contributor for 406 Families, a site dedicated to connecting families to local events and resources.