With the Internet, Television, and SmartPhones, it is easier than ever to change from one thought or idea to another as soon as we become even the slightest bit bored. There’s very little opportunity to learn the patience required for reading, as images are changed on the TV every few seconds and Candy Crush is always there, just begging to be played. So, how can reading be fun if you have to sit there and focus for more than 30 seconds at a time? Why not just go to the iPad or computer to have mental stimulation provided to us? WE know how important the activity of reading is to human brain development, but it is becoming harder and harder to encourage that activity among those without a pre-existing love of reading.
Picture book writers have a daunting task in today’s clime - they must write something that is not only something publishers will expect to be lucrative, but also something that will keep a child’s attention for more than just a couple of minutes. Then, we as storytime providers must cull through those books that are published to determine the ones that are most appropriate for our audiences, no matter how antsy those audiences happen to be. Occasionally, I have had to skip pages or stop a book entirely during a storytime because it simply wasn’t keeping the attention of my audience. It is more important to build a love of reading, at this early stage, than it is to force a child to listen to an entire book, so I don’t dwell on the fact that the whole story wasn’t read.
In our storytimes, we occasionally encounter the parent or caregiver who thinks that the only way to read a story to their child is to sit down and go from the beginning of a book to the end without changing course or stopping mid-way. However, our current culture makes that option rather difficult, and what’s more, relatively few people know that early literacy skills can be built even when pages are skipped or a book is stopped in the middle. At this early stage of life, it is much more important that a child ENJOYS reading than that he/she feels pigeon-holed into reading a certain way and ultimately dislikes the idea of reading entirely.
A great way to model this type of reading is to find a non-fiction book with large pictures to include in your storytime. Dinosaurs are always a great option!
Instead of starting at the beginning of the book, try starting at one of the coolest, most eye-catching pictures. You can even mark these pages ahead of time with sticky notes or paper clips for easy access. Then, talk about what’s on the page. You can start a dialogic reading session, and you don’t even have to read all of the words on the page! It is great to incorporate some of the new vocabulary that is presented in the book, but there is no reason to be beholden to all of the specific printed words. Reading in this way helps keep kids engaged and helps model for parents how this process can be done at home. Seeing a professional read in this way helps parents to not feel as obligated to “follow the rules” when reading to their children.
The earlier in a child's life we can establish a pleasure of reading, the more likely that child is to enjoy reading and succeed in school later on. Don’t be afraid to try this technique in your storytimes if your listeners become antsy - at the very least, it’s a great opportunity to throw in an Early Literacy tip!