In part 1 of Teaching Through Story, we talked about how stories can teach basic information such as vocabulary development, categories, and sequencing, but stories are also great ways to teach higher level language skills. (They also make learning fun in a very natural way).
Storybooks are a great way to teach/discuss multiple meaning words or words-in-context. If you’re reading a story with a child that uses the sentence “Do you think Goldilocks will break the chair?” The word ‘break’ can mean two different things. Or if the sentence is “Goldilocks was a sweet girl.” You can discuss the various meanings of the word ‘sweet’. This allows for the child to use context clues to guess one meaning, but then expands on that one meaning to add other meanings. It helps with vocabulary development in a more advanced way, as well as increasing flexibility of thinking.
Social Communication Skills
Because of the complexity of social communication, storybook reading provides a more holistic approach to addressing various different aspects of the social world. For example, when reading a book like The Gruffalo, the reader must try to ‘get inside’ the mouse’s head to determine how he’s going to convince the other animals not to eat him. At an even more complex level, the reader has to understand that the mouse is ‘tricking’ the animals, even the Gruffalo, by telling a lie. This is a very complex, social skill to both understand and use.
Or let’s take the classic, Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf’s intentions are very different than his actions with Little Red. This provides an opportunity to teach thoughts, perspectives, intentions, as well as ‘learning with your eyes’ skills.
Storybooks also provide a ‘visual’ to teach emotions, facial expressions, and even deeper level concepts such as big deal vs. little deal problems. For example, if Little Red dropped her basket and lost a few cookies for Granny, that’s a little deal… but being eaten by a wolf? Much bigger J.
Predicting and problem solving are two higher order skills (among many) that storybook reading can strengthen. In the book Suddenly, the wolf fails in catching the pig on every page, so eventually, if a child is able to read the clues appropriately, he’ll be able to ‘predict’ that the wolf will not catch the pig on the consecutive pages. Or in Little Red Riding Hood, the child might predict what the wolf plans to do when he gets into Granny’s house, or what the bears will do when they get home to find that Goldilocks has made a mess of their house.
Problem solving is a natural part of storybook reading. What’s going to happen next? That’s why we turn the page. Again, in The Gruffalo, the mouse is trying to problem solve a way not to be eaten. As the story is read, the child can take from various language skills (perspective taking, context reading, learning from previous information in the story, and making good social guesses) to figure out how the mouse might try to save himself.
There are so many other ways to use storybooks for strengthening language skills. These are only a few… and remember, the ‘classics’ are called ‘classics’ for a reason. Repetition of words, predictable storylines, and creative characters help make storybook reading fun and increase learning.
Through Story – Part 2
Pepper Basham, MS, CCC-SLP