Thanks for all your wonderful feedback on part one of this post! Read on for part two, which is full of great storytime tips and memories from our Barefoot Books Ambassador, Colleen O’Hearn.

Q: Why is storytime important in your family?
A:
Storytime is important in our family because it is an opportunity to connect and bond together on a regular basis. We have fun, active storytimes during the day that include some wonderful, imaginative play together. Participating in this type of play with my kids, being imaginative and creative myself, is not only fun, but it shows them that playing has no limits and doesn’t need to end just because you’ve grown up. For example, one of my daughter’s favorite stories to read is “Pirate Grace” from The Barefoot Book of Pirates. This story often leads to us drawing and following our own treasure maps, a rocking chair magically turning into pirate ship, pillow-island hopping to outwit imaginary sea monsters, and spying each other across the ocean of carpet with paper tube telescopes. Making stories come to life is not only fun, but it also creates lasting moments and memories.

In addition to our active storytimes, each evening my husband or I spend quality one-on-one time with each of our children by reading to them at bedtime. Stories have become a regular, necessary part of our bedtime routine. They provide a feeling of security and comfort for each of my children every night before they drift off to sleep. Sharing time together over a story has encouraged both of my children to become book lovers, and has built a solid foundation for their emerging literacy skills, which is important to me and so very, very important to their futures.

Q: When did you start reading to your children?
A:
I started reading to each of my children when they were infants. Initially I started reading most often before naptimes and bedtime, because hearing my voice read the words on the pages was soothing and calming for them, but as they grew, so did our storytimes. Now I add books and stories into our day as often as I can.

Q: How old are your children now?
A:
My daughter is four and a half, my son is two and a half.

Q: What’s your favorite part of storytime?
A:
Personally, I enjoy reading the stories aloud to my kids. I like to ham it up and give each character a voice, using body movements and facial expressions to bring the story to life. I treasure every smile and giggle it inspires.

Q: What is your children’s favorite part of storytime?
A:
I know my daughter is fond of being swept up in the story. She loves to hear of faraway places and mystical, imaginative creatures. She enjoys when we use puppets to bring the story alive.

As for my son, he loves the vibrant illustrations and making himself part of the story, i.e. roaring like a dragon when we read I Could Be, You Could Be or actually pretending to play the instruments in the pictures on the last page of Talk With Me. I also know that each of them appreciates the individual attention they receive when we read to them.

Q: How do you and your children choose books for storytime?
A:
How we choose our books and stories depends on the day. Sometimes the kids already know what they want to read. They each have their favorites and I have mine too. Somedays they choose; other days, I offer a few gentle suggestions to change it up a bit. But almost always, if a new box of books arrives, we have to dive into anything new that we haven’t read yet!

Q: What do you think your children learn from storytime?
A:
They are each learning that reading is important. They are learning that the letters and words they see on the page have sounds and meanings, and that they are our way of sharing our stories. They are hearing stories from around the world, exposing them to cultures and ways of life that are new and different. Each new story we read opens up doors to different ideas and lessons that I see being expressed in their play and their exploration and discoveries. I can see the connections they make from the ideas they hear in a story to situations that arise in our day-to-day lives. It’s wonderful.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about storytimes in your family?
A:
I often use storytimes as parenting tools. When my daughter was struggling with controlling her temper, Emily’s Tiger was a life saver. Being able to relate to Emily was key in helping my daughter see she was responsible for controlling her reactions to situations. I’ve also defused bedtime meltdowns by taking our bedtime story outside to read. For example, I read  I Took the Moon for a Walk under the bright white moon hanging in the sky. Moving outside not only distracted my son from fighting bedtime, but it offered a unique opportunity to connect story content to something concrete, and created a new ritual and lasting memory for both of us. I’ve learned that sometimes the trick to getting a picky eater to take a few more bites during a difficult mealtime is as simple as reading a page per bite from a favorite board book. Not only am I making my job as a mom easier, but I’m doing it with something valuable and worthwhile for my kids.

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