Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tell Me a Story!

How did we entertain kids on road trips before there were DVD players in cars (or books on CD, for that matter)?

Back when I was a little guy, we played games and told stories. I have extremely vivid memories of my mother reciting a hilarious spoonerism-packed version of Cinderella called Rindercella. Little did I realize that my pre-reading skills were being sharpened with each and every story that mom told.

When kids listen to stories, they are developing important early literacy skills. First off, they are learning all about how narrative structures work. Each time a child hears a tale, they are experiencing a story arc - a beginning, middle and end. Folktales are packed with clues to help us identify the part of the story we are hearing, such as "once upon a time" and "they lived happily ever after." Knowing how stories are put together helps boost a child's comprehension once they begin to learn how to read.

Hearing stories also exposes kids to rich language (vocabulary) and cultural details that might not be shared under normal circumstances.  The more words kids hear, the easier they will be able to decipher the words they see on a page.

I encourage you to share stories with your kids on your next road trip. If you're wondering where to find good stories, here are a few good places to look:
  1. The stories you remember from your childhood - e.g., The Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Boy, Goldilocks, etc.
  2. The story of how your child's name was chosen
  3. The story of the day your child was born or adopted
  4. What your parents and/or grandparents were like
  5. What you were like as a child
  6. Folktale collections (look for books with Dewey Decimal number 398.2)
There have been hundreds of wonderful folktales published over the years.  Here are 10 of my favorite folktale picture books:

Title: The Gingerbread Boy
Author: Richard Egielski
Find this book at your library

A freshly-baked Gingerbread Boy jumps out of a New York City window, causing a citywide chase!

Title: Chicken Little
Author: Rebecca Emberley
Illustrator: Ed Emberley
Find this book at your library

Bright-colored version of Chicken Little, who over-reacts when an acorn falls on his head and convinces everyone the sky is falling.
Title: The Gunniwolf
Author: Wilhelmina Harper
Illustrator: Barbara Upton
Find this book at your library

Little girl disobeys her mother by picking flowers in the jungle.  When she comes face-to-face with the Gunniwolf, only her singing can save the day.
Title: Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock
Author: Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrator: Janet Stevens
Find this book at your library

Trickster extraordinaire Anansi finds a magic rock that knocks out anybody who touches it.  Before long he is fooling all his friends and stealing their food!
Title: Little Rooster's Diamond Button
Author: Margaret Read MacDonald
Illustrator: Will Terry
Find this book at your library

When Little Rooster pecks up a diamond button only to have it taken away by the mean old King, his magic stomach comes to the rescue!
Title: Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Author: James Marshall
Find this book at your library

Hilarious retelling of the tale of a little girl who goes where shouldn't and takes what isn't hers!
Title: The Lion and the Mouse
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Find this book at your library

Gorgeous and wordless, this book shows the story of Aesop's famous fable of a little mouse who saves a lion.
Title: Counting Crocodiles
Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Find this book at your library

Monkey really wants those delicious-looking bananas on the other side of the Sillabobble Sea.  He is determined to trick his way across on the backs of a series of countable crocs!
Title: Carmine: A Little More Red
Author: Melissa Sweet
Find this book at your library

Carmine sets off to visit her granny but gets side-tracked along the way as she paints and explores the alphabet in this fun retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
Title: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Author: Simms Taback
Find this book at your library

A delightful tale of thrift as Joseph refashions his overcoat into smaller and smaller articles of clothing!

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