Do you rather have children begging you to read to them, or the other way around? If the latter, it helps to make the experience fun and engaging. This is particularly important if the child is not keen on reading or on being read to. And specially if you’re trying to nudge them into taking an interest in the minority language.
So I thought I’d follow up on the last post about reading to children to support language acquisition.
Four classic strategies that work on any language
- making funny sounds and voices. High pitched, low pitched, impersonating a Lion, that kind of stuff.
- parent pretending they got something wrong. Kids find this very amusing. Goldilocks and the Three Bears is one of my girls’ favourite stories and they ask for it repeatedly. I regularly change the bears to other animals (the more unlikely to be found in that setting, the better) or their number to something ridiculously bigger, like 7. I keep varying little details and they love the anticipation of what silly things mummy will say… and of course, the satisfaction of correcting mummy!
- use puppets. Bring the story alive by using puppets as characters. If you don’t have puppets, use any cuddly toy. Children love puppets and cuddly toys!
- asking children questions. For example, “where is the crocodile…?”, “What colour is the flower…”, what shape, how many, and even more complex questions such as “what do you think will happen” or “what happened” and why so they start thinking and articulating in that language
This is all standard fare we were doing at home before in the majority language anyway, as recommended in parenting books. It’s just that now, we do it in the minority language. Actually, I have lots of fun doing it, it’s a great opportunity to be silly and goofy when ‘no one’s watching’.
If you’re not naturally inclined to be goofy, and have no interest in looking silly, I say to you: hey, loosen up! We only live once…
Do you have more suggestions to make story time fun and engaging? Share your top tips in the comments or on the Mother Tongue facebook page
Love this. We, as a family read books together – so we each have a copy of Harry Potter and take it turns to read a page or two, me and hubby will attempt the accents from the characters. The children love it.
Hi Julz, what a great idea to read together as a family. Sounds great fun!
I really love the idea of getting something wrong by changing a detail – my daughter would love this. She likes finishing the sentence or asking me to say it slow/fast/low/high/silly/like a dinosaur (the list is endless). It’s amazing how much the story changes with the voice you choose to use
Hi Kate, Glad you got something from this post 🙂 Sounds like your daughter is already having a great time with books. You’re absolutely right – the voice changes the entire experience. If we read a book monotonally, the kids tend to mellow down. If we use a variety of exciting voices and gestures, they perk. I love books!