Tell Me a Story by Elaine Reese

My mom and dad live more than an hour away from us. As we drive home late at night from a visit to their home and as we drive through my childhood home, past my old elementary school, high school, church, favorite playgrounds, and so forth, my son asks me to tell him stories about when I was a little girl.

He loves to hear the story about when I taught swimming lessons at the pool and my car battery was dead afterwords, so I had to call grandpa to come help me jumpstart the car. He loves to hear about the day when I was three years old and I tried to walk from home to the grocery store because I did not want to be left at home with grandma. It helps that we happen to pass by those places, but I believe he’d love the stories even if we did not still live in my childhood hometown.

Tell Me a Story: Sharing Stories to Enrich Your Child’s World by Elaine Reese (Oxford University Press, 2013) is a volume about the benefits your children gain from hearing and retelling stories. I loved how it included tips for sharing stories with all children, from toddler through adolescence. It reinforced the fact that I’m doing most things right as I discuss the picture books I read to my toddler, read aloud to my son, encourage my son to tell me his favorite parts of the day, and tell my children stories from my childhood.

Dr.  Reese writes with passion and experience as she talks about both reading stories with children and sharing stories. Her techniques involve the concepts of Rich Reading and Rich Reminiscing, which involves asking questions and discussing as one reads with children. Different ages require different techniques. The first chapters of the book focus on the various ages and stages of children. for each chapter, she focused on how to read aloud, what types of things to read aloud, and ways to encourage story telling.

My oldest is a school-aged child, and my youngest is a toddler, so those were the most interesting chapters to me. I loved the reminder that when my toddler says just two words, there may be a story I can expand on. I appreciated the reminder that I should keep reading to my school-aged son, even though he is now a fluent reader, and that I should keep telling him stories. I am feeling inspired to write down some of these favorite stories from my childhood and that of my parents and grandparents.

Further, even though my kids are younger, I loved Dr. Reese’s ideas for story telling with older kids. I am a bit scared of the teen years at this point, but I believe that if I am sensitive to those things my adolescent says, I may be able to encourage story telling in the future years as well. Reading together may not entail me reading aloud to my children any more, but as long as we are all reading, it will be okay. Since I homeschool, I intend to continue the read-aloud practice as long as possible, making it an important part of our school day.

Later in the book, Dr. Reese talks about how grandparents and others can encourage story telling and some further practical tips. In general, the book was practical and inspiring. For me, a rather voracious reader and a person interested in family history already, many of the ideas were obvious. I still really enjoyed it, and if you would like some practical assistance in encouraging story telling and reading in your home, I suggest you pick this book up as well!

Note: I received a digital review copy from the publisher for review consideration.

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