Off script: How telling the story in your own words can add value

Family reading together
Category: Bookbug

I’ve chatted to many parents who feel anxious about sharing books with their child. Some feel worried about their own reading and being able to read the story word for word. They ask if it's okay to tell the story in their own words. One of the most important things we need to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong way to read a book or share a story - different approaches can develop different skills in children. It’s not just what we read aloud, but also how we read aloud that helps develop children’s understanding and literacy. 

there is no right or wrong way to read a book or share a story

Reading the book as its written can give children a great model of language. Text has a rhythm, a pattern and a musical feel. With a rhyming text, children will experience this even more. The nuances in the text, like humour, repetition of sounds and how the text pairs with the images, might be lost in your own retelling. Reading the story as it is written transports you into the author/illustrator’s world and opens up possibilities and discussions that you may not have thought about, particularly in a well-crafted story. 

Telling the story in your own words, or talking through the pictures is also extremely valuable. There have been studies that show we use even more diverse language when we tell the stories in our own words. When reading books, we have the tendency to stick to the text, or ask very basic and simple questions. If we’re telling the story in our own words, we tend to use different strategies; we link the book to the child's experiences, we explain words that our children may not understand, and ask children to infer their own knowledge and make predictions. These strategies help your child to develop their language, literacy and thought processes.    

Whether you read your stories word for word, make them up so they’re different every time, or spend time talking about the pictures, all of these experiences are supporting your child's language, literacy and communication development. 

A love of books is an important first step to literacy because it motivates children and excites them about the power of being able to read themselves. Helping children develop this love of books is about sharing books in a way that captures their imagination and engages their attention. One way to ensure children love what they’re reading is to use the strategies that work for your family - sharing books in a way that works for them.