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How to Tell a Child a Story

All children love a good story. Every parent should read to their child every night before bed and establish that quiet time, a time for reflection, and a time to wind down from the day’s events. Select an appropriate storybook. There are thousands of wonderful children’s books out there and your child will soon have a list of favorites as long as your arm. Repeating is OK, too. My grandson loves an encore reading of one of his favorite books like “Island of The Skog” or “Green Eggs & Ham.”

He loves to study the pictures on each page and sometimes I’ll ask him to point out things. “Where’s the Skog? Where are the kids? Where is the bird?” Sometimes it’s good to go through the whole page and point out everything single thing in the picture. Children’s books are always beautifully illustrated and the pages are always chock-full interesting detail that the kids pick up on. “Where’s the… centipede?” The centipede is hiding somewhere in the illustration and sometimes it takes a couple of minutes to find it. That’s good. Side trips are nice when it’s story time. Oh, and if they can’t find it and you point it out to them, that’s fun too. Those are the kinds of lessons that really stick with kids. They say, “Oh… I see!” and they really do. Next time they’ll pick out that centipede right away. The reason I like side trips is that it takes us away from the story for a moment, which sets up a nice return, when we turn the page and pick up the story. Most kids really like that and love to dive right back in. It’s a nice moment in the flow of the story. The pathos is reassuring. The story is like an old friend, returning now to talk to us.

Using funny voices and emphatic dialogue really spices up the story and I encourage you to take the ball and run with it. Experiment and see what works best for you. Reading a story can be dramatic or funny or corny, just let it flow and let the story dictate how you should read it. It’s no secret that kids love to be entertained.

It’s important that you read the whole story, right to the final page, then say loudly, “The end!” and snap the book closed, giving all parties the closure they need.

All about made-up Stories. My grandson Nate loves made-up stories too. He always up for one of Grandpa’s famous stories. Made-up stories are always custom jobs and really involve the kids. Start out by making the story about a kid roughly the same age and description as the kid you’re telling the story too. Always give the kid a really unique name- like Cornelius or Dangerfoot or Spunkmier. Then put the kid in an unlikely situation. Make it up- remember your telling the story- the more unlikely the better.

Are you stuck? Here are a few basic story outlines that never fail for me. Feel free to try one. The kid in the story has some kind of magic or super power- like he can draw a picture of something and then it would turn real. Let the child you’re telling the story to guide the story by suggesting things the kid could draw, and then come to life.

See how this works? Here’s another one- the kid has a magic bed that can turn into a racing car or a boat or a submarine or an airplane or a rocket ship, then have him leave the neighborhood, go far away, have an adventure, get lost, then find his way back. Or maybe he has a smart dog that can talk or a robot that can fly. These ideas are all story starters- let your imagination spark and let the child guide the story along.

Preposterous is OK, silly is OK, just keep it simple and always with the innocence of youth. Make sure it’s long enough- kids can sense when you’re hurrying or distracted. Stay focus and bring the story to a smooth and happy conclusion. Don’t make the story too scary or violent, it’s important that the child feel comfortable with the story.

By making up stories for your child you stimulate their creative imagination. It’s the “theater of the mind.” That’s good. Without exception, all the great writers started this way. Get your child used to improvising, thinking creatively, and above all- praise him for having his own original ideas.

So whether you’re reading a children’s book or making up a bedtime story, always give it your best. Children are very perceptive. They know when you’re faking it. Give them the full measure if you want to gain their respect. Story time should be the best time of the day.

Greg Kihn Band – Debut album, Greg Kihn Again and Next Of Kihn Now available from Apple iTunes.

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3 Responses to "How to Tell a Child a Story"

  1. That is so sweet how you wrote a whole article on reading a story to a child. That can only come from a sweet and caring Father and person.

  2. The perfect bonding time between a parent and their child. An extra bonus when you read books that were read to you as a child! :-)

  3. Sure, it’s easy for some rich white guy to preach about family values – but what about people who have no families? Who have no Dad or Grandparents to read them stories? Who have to dodge bullets on a daily basis in the mean streets? How dare you.

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