Grow a Reader: Narrative Skills

By Josie Wold

Some of the best stories come from young children just when their words start to catch up to their imaginations. All we have to do is sit back and listen. Well, maybe not quite. There are things we can do to help along these narrative skills, and they are an important part of learning to read.

Narrative skills refer to the ability to describe things and events and tell stories. Research shows that using expressive language to retell stories helps children understand what they hear and read. This later helps them when they are reading. You can find more information and evidence supporting early literacy and early learning at the Books Build Connections site of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Here are some more ways you can develop your children’s narrative skills:

  • With babies, name things throughout the day.
  • With toddlers, talk about what you are going to do, in order.
  • With preschoolers, have them help you fill in some of the details of a storybook by asking questions, such as “How did the story begin?” “Then what happened?” and “How did the story end?” Some stories are great for predicting what is going to happen next.
  • Use toys or puppets to connect to a story. They will give your children a vehicle to retell the story in their minds and in their own words.
  • Read a story, then let your children retell it in their own words—or act it out or draw it and explain the drawings.
  • Have your children tell the story by explaining the illustrations in a picture book.

Being able to tell or retell a story helps children understand what they read. Here is a list of some pictures books with fun stories to tell and retell: CRRL Grow a Reader: Narrative Skills

One trouble after another, zanier and zanier, but it is always “Chickens to the rescue!”

Imagine a story with a boy, a pencil--and elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions, gorillas, hippos, and rhinos.

A baby clown who falls off a train becomes friends with the nice farmer who rescues him.

Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to, but sometimes it ends up even better than you hoped.

It may start with just a cat and cupcake, but things keep happening.

You can use your imagination to tell the story of this wonderful adventure.

How can a little mouse help a big, ferocious lion?

You may just have to tell this story yourself, but it will be worth it.

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