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Reading to Different Ages

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Dear Debi,
I donít know how to keep all of my kids interested during storytime. Some of the younger ones wander off or a baby will start crying and distract the others. Itís gotten to the point where story time is too difficult to do. I donít know how to make it work for kids of different ages. Can you give me some suggestions?
Norma , Lynwood, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Read to your kids every day
  • Choose books about things that interest kids
  • Ask open-ended questions when reading to kids
  • Encourage your older kids to read to the younger ones
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Education Instructor
Reading to kids of different ages at the same time and getting them to focus is hard. Norma should try to read to the bigger kids while the younger ones are sleeping, or encourage the older kids to read to the younger ones.

Itís very important to read to kids. It supports language development and exposes them to stories and ideas. It also helps develop relationships with the provider and the children and it supports quiet time. It supports literacy development, creativity and the social emotional aspects of the relationship with children, their child care provider and parents.

Younger kids need to be spoken to in the language you speak as a child care provider. If I could read Spanish and my pronunciation was fine, I would read to kids in Spanish, too. Even if I can only read in English, I can still read stories in English about other cultures. Remember, no matter what the language Ė accent or not Ė children need to be read to.

Trying to read to a group all at once is hard when you have kids of different ages. You can have the older kids help read stories to infants and toddlers. Preschoolers have memorized the books so they can help read to the infants. You can also try reading to the older kids when the infants and toddlers are resting or doing something else.

Choosing books that kids can relate to helps keeps their interest and extends their knowledge base. Kids learn through repetition. Since itís something they love, thatís how they will learn. They relate to things that are concrete in their world. It doesnít mean they donít like fantasy, but their curiosity is extended if itís something they can ask questions about. Itís important to ask kids open-ended questions about whatís been read so they can share with you what they know and what they understand. This helps with their critical thinking skills and itís a natural way to extend it. It also helps build their self-esteem because with open-ended questions, there is no wrong answer.

If a child care provider canít read, he or she can still tell stories using board books or picture stories. They donít have to be able to actually read the words in the book, because very young kids can see the text, but they donít understand what the actual words mean.

You can always use books on tape, too. In family home care, books on tape work well while a provider needs to attend to the babies. You can also take kids to story hour at the local library. You can even have storytellers come in to your home or get together with another provider who can read.

Keep in mind that children should enjoy the experience of being read to everyday. It should be part of their daily routine based on the temperament of the child and the age of the child.
Child Care provider Comments
Darlene
Darlene
Family child care provider for 4 years
We have story time in the morning because I feel kids are a lot more alert in the morning. Each day a child picks out a book and we read it and then discuss it. If itís a story that the kids are really interested in, theyíre attentive. But if I see more than three of my kids fidgety, Iíll ask them if they want to change the story.
Verdis Ferraro
Verdis Ferraro
Child care provider for 23 years
I like the old classic ďCats Caps For Sale.Ē Itís fun because there is more text on the page and the kids can interact with it. Older kids love books with dinosaurs and monsters and things that, which can be scary to babies. Babies like books that show features of the face, like ďThe Big Green MonsterĒ book. They get into it and say ďtake off your eyes, your ears, etcĒ. Those are fun and interactive.
Consuelo Ducoing
Consuelo Ducoing
Child care provider for 14 years
The mother of the kids I care for has a lot of books. She really encourages me to sit down and read to them. We read stories all the time and I act things out and interact with them while we are reading. Most of the time all three of the kids will sit and read with me, but sometimes the older child will go off and write, while still listening.

The children like the way I read because I incorporate dramatic play, I change my voice, and I encourage the kids to help me out. I also ask them what they want to read and let them each pick out a book, if they want.

Adapting a Book for Kids of Different Ages Featured Activity:
Adapting a Book for Kids of Different Ages
Incorporate Books into Your Daily Routine Featured Video:
Incorporate Books into Your Daily Routine
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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Reading to Infants
Reading to Infants (II)
Resources
The National Center For Family Literacy
1-877-FAMLIT-1 (or 1-877-326-5481)
Story-telling
PBS / The Whole Child / Thinking Skills
National Education Association
Reading is Fundamental / Reading Tips
PBS Booklists for Children, Parents and Child Care providers
Reading is Fundamental (RIF)
PBS Teacher Source
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Tips on Choosing Books for Children pdf
 
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