Narrative skills are a child’s ability to tell a story and understand how they work. Through exposure to books and reading, children become aware that stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Being able to tell a story or describe an instance in order helps a child develop reading comprehension skills. Often times, caregivers will say that their child hears the same book fifty times and then memorizes the words so they can “read” the book. This is a perfect example of developing narrative skills! Being able to recall details and word order is very important for any future subject they may learn in school.
To support this skill at Winona Public Library, we fill our space with toys that encourage imaginative play. Our dress-up clothes encourage children to recall what they know about each of the professions represented and act them out in appropriate ways. The play kitchen and food encourages children to recall how they’ve seen adults cook in their lives. What goes in the oven? What pieces of the kitchen are hot and require the potholder? They can take down orders, remember them, and deliver food to their friends and caregivers.
This skill is one of the most fun to practice. Any time you play pretend or tell stories, you’re encouraging the building of narrative skills. Here are five simple strategies for home:
- Narrate play time. If your child is playing with a dinosaur, “What kind of dinosaur is that? Does he have lots of friends? Where’s his favorite place to find food?”
- To build on the above, when asking questions to open a dialogue with your child, try to avoid questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Ask who, what, where, when, why questions.
- Tell the “story” of bedtime to help them learn sequencing. First it’s bath, then brushing teeth, then books, then sleep.
- Ask your child what their favorite part of the day was. This will not only create a special time for you to share together, but it will also give them an opportunity to reflect and recall instances from their day.
- Read sequence books together. These are books that add a new link to the chain on each page, such as, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” For other titles, check out this book list (PDF).
As with any other skill, interaction with adults and caregivers is one of the most effective ways for a pre-reader to improve. Anything can be a chance for narrative skills if you use your imagination! Going through the car wash? Tell a story about the pink and purple foam running down your windshield. Enjoy the time with your child and incorporate these skills where you can, but just know that even a regular conversation is invaluable when it comes to building reading comprehension. For more information or guidance, please visit the Winona Public Library. Our friendly staff is always ready to help you navigate the path of early literacy (and beyond).