Hanging On To The Magic Of Stories

Hanging On To The Magic Of Stories


Written by – Marianne Riess

Some recent Moms of the Week have described their favorite part of the day as the time spent cuddling and reading bedtime stories with their children. Besides the obvious closeness of the experience, reading to children offers so many benefits. Children gain a rich vocabulary, learn that print tells the story, and most important find out that books open up exciting new worlds to them. You cannot overestimate the value of giving a child a love of books.

When children begin to learn to read on their own, they struggle to sound out simple words and memorize sight words. One day, something clicks and they become excited to able to read, “The cat sat on the rat,” “Ted is in a red bed, ” and even, “I do not like green eggs and ham…” Parents are thrilled that the struggles seem over and their children are bringing home simple books to read for 20 minutes every night. Over time, the books become slightly more complex and have new words in them.

Sadly this homework often becomes more like a chore than a delight. Why? Early reader books are boring compared to what the child listened to earlier. The story lines are simple and children read the same books several nights in a row. The vocabulary is not rich and varied like the bedtime stories you read every night. The emotional content is low. Reading a book becomes work instead of fun. 

At this point, it is really important for parents to continue to read exciting books to the child. This is not the time to think, “She can read on her own now.” Assignments in early readers cannot replace listening to wonderful stories. It is time to prove to the child, every day, that books tell fantastic tales, are beautifully illustrated, and full of feeling. Keep reading to your elementary school child. Read until he can read as well as you do, and even longer if you can. Read long stories, fairy tales, chapter books, classics. Don’t let your child lose the joy of stories. 

A few not so familiar suggestions:

from Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, Danny, the Champion of the World 

from A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh, When We Were Very Young, Now We Are Six

from E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web 

Usborne Anthologies: Stories from Around the World, Greek Myths, Animal Stories, Fables, Fairy Tales

Marianne Riess is the former head of the Putnam Indian Field School in Greenwich, CT. She has 40 years of experience in working with young children.

This column was originally published via PWM in December, 2014.

Marianne’s other columns here