We’ve all taken a million photos of our kids, right? Here’s a simple project you can do together that will help develop your child’s narrative skills– an early literacy skill that means the ability to describe things, tell and re-tell events in order, and know that stories have a beginning, middle and end, aka story telling! Developing this skill now will help your child with reading comprehension later on. When choosing books, look for books that have repetition, a good plot, stories that are cumulative or sequential, and wordless picture books.
Last summer, two friends came over to play with my kids and brought their cameras along. In the course of a laid-back morning of Hot Wheels and trains (my preschooler) and crawling to reach various toys (my baby), they took photos. Later, I received a wonderful photo album with the photos plus a hand-written story describing our morning.
Here are some excerpts (I’m not using full names): “One day E’s mom told him that some friends were coming to visit. D and S came to see E and his brother L. D read a book to E that she had brought for him (photo of them reading together)…”While E was outside with his Mom and D, S watched L. L started crawling towards E’s cars. He got closer and closer. E came in, and moved the cars just in time. Baby L is still too young to play with the cars. Some day when he is older, L can play” (photo of baby L crawling)
The photo album story is about 12 pages, and a year later, my kids still love looking at it, even requesting it as their bedtime story. It is a special way to capture a fun moment in time while working on narrative skills.
Another suggestion I’ve discussed with parents is to have your child tell you a story, and draw illustrations for it. You can help them write it out and make it into a book. I’ve seen impressive examples of this–older kids re-creating a “Pigeon” story by Mo Willems for example. Here are some great ideas for growing narrative skills for all ages, from babies to school-age kids.
If you want a more permanent personalized book, try I See Me!- a company offering a whole range of personalized books. We’ve gotten these as gifts and given them to others and they’re fabulous (one of my favorites is “L’s Very Happy Birthday” book! Shutterfly and other companies offer similar products. We once made my husband a Father’s Day book from Shutterfly using family photos loosely based on the text of “I Love My Daddy Because…” by Laurel Porter Gaylord, coming up with our own reasons based around the photos we had.
Kids love seeing their names in print and being the “star” of the story. Sometimes while reading to my kids, I’ll change the name of the main character to my child’s name. They seem to engage in it even more and love experiencing the story on a more personal level. So have fun with this skill, and enjoy what you and your child create together!