“Once upon a time…”

Four magic words a child will often respond to with glee. And what comes next begins a world of possibilities and adventures for learning and fun.

Let me start by saying that it is never too early to introduce reading and telling a story to a baby. Even if too young to understand the words the relationship you create, the routine you establish, is one of the most wonderful experiences for both adult and child.

And don’t be too disheartened by a toddler whose attention span challenges your patience. Focus on the pictures; ask them about colours, shapes, and anything you think will help concentration. Maybe assign a specific reading chair or comfortable corner. When they start to fidget, a gentle reminder that “now its quiet story time” may also help.

If nothing works and they are just not interested ensure you confirm that story time is over and we will read again in bed or tomorrow morning. By being firm and consistent, and if possible, enthusiastic, hopefully this special time will become easier and more enjoyable.

As their language skills improve, prompt memory to encourage them to complete the sentence or fill in the blank. You can also use the opportunity to discuss feelings.

However, the most exciting aspect is not stopping at “The End”. You can ask “what do you think happens next?”, “where is the rabbit/monster/car/girl now?” The aim is to use stories to tap into their imagination and you might just learn something new or even better, you are inspiring a young mind to develop and enjoy the first steps of creativity.

Move beyond the words to incorporate stories into art and activities. A Gruffalo hunt in your local park, high tea with princess fairies, finger painting an enchanted forest or even a paper mache sculpture of a hungry caterpillar, are a few great ways to play and learn.

But why limit yourself and your charges to someone else’s story. One of my favourite memories is helping 8 year old Zahra write and illustrate her book, we then had professionally bound and covered. A memento she will treasure like “Sammy the Silly Seal”, my own childhood contribution to literature. Well, my mum said she liked it.

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