At Home Abroad: Story time! Who knew?
By Regina Costello
Working at the Buckeye public library in Medina County has introduced me to the world of story time. And it truly is a world. It is an innovative and enjoyable route to unlocking a child’s imagination and opening a mind to an exciting unlimited universe.
Children are brought to story time for any number of reasons – perhaps to add structure to their day, or introduce an activity, teach them to socialize with other toddlers, or simply relax and enjoy a story. The reason is not that important, but the benefits of story time are both complex and abounding for both babies and toddlers. I am learning that the best story times are those that appear to be seamlessly strung together that funnily enough, require a significant amount of planning, time and effort.
For generations, long before the existence of empirical evidence, parents around the globe have been reading to their children. It seemed to be innately understood to be a worthwhile endeavor and a fruitful use of time with children where language introduces a world of stories and fantasies that allows a child’s imagination to develop. That still holds true today but is strongly supported by numerous studies and publications that outline positive benefits of reading to very young children.
Data indicates that children must first learn to listen before they can speak. Story time is an ideal interactive and playful way to accommodate that development in a library, or at home, or with a play date. It can be a better and more productive alternative to handing a small child a phone at a restaurant, doctor’s office or anywhere else – of which we are all guilty.
Producing a successful story time event at a public library requires certain markers to be met that touch upon several areas, including early literacy and numbers and songs, using not only books, but also other resources, including crafts, puppets and alphabet letters. Physical activity is an important aspect that is required and can be accomplished using dance, finger play and playtime.
As a parent, you do not need to get bogged down in these details. Most importantly, this should be an enjoyable time for you and your child. Get comfortable with your child on a favorite sofa with a soft blanket and turn off electronic devices.
Starting off with the same song each time sets the stage. Ensure you have a big picture book. Let your child touch or chew the book. It can be a cloth book, popup book or flannel book – any kind of book that engages your child.
Point to the pictures, intonate your voice. Ask a toddler questions during the story. A preschooler child can perhaps guess what happens next.
Make time for play afterwards. With older children, more complex questions and interactions can take place and children can be encouraged to make up their own stories or provide an alternative ending to the story at hand. The art of reading and learning language is not confined to story time.
Popping a book on tape in the car is another avenue for a child to actively listen. Listening to books on tape develops the additional skills of concentration and self-discipline that also builds memory retention.
The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a topic, book, or book on tape. It is an ideal way to introduce your Irish heritage to your child or grandchild. Our history is steeped in mythology and folklore that provides a fantastical avenue for a child’s imagination that can be used as story time.
Trips to the dollar store can be met with success by picking up items around St. Patrick’s Day and can be used to supplement the story telling.
Listening to Irish publications on tape with Irish accents might provide entertainment and curiosity for your child. Some of these are also available on YouTube.
Establishing a routine story time with a child has the lasting benefits of teaching a child the skills of communication patience, empathy and literacy, while simultaneously growing curiosity and memory. There are lots of books to choose from. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Choose a book that feels right for you and your child.
Choosing an Irish topic may be the perfect starting point because the four green fields are never far from our minds. At home abroad, story time can be the introduction of the land of leprechauns and rainbows to your child or grandchild, and the beginning of a shared interest and hobby for you both.
I love this quote that I stumbled upon recently from Anna Quindlen. I hope you do too. “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
*Regina is a postgraduate from the National University of Ireland Dublin – School of Library and Information Science. Former Curator with the Irish American Archives Society; Executive Director of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Commission. She is currently working as a library professional at the Buckeye branch of the Medina Public Library District and is a Director on the Boards of the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland and The Irish American Charitable Foundation. She would love to hear from you and can be reached at email@example.com.