Early in this pandemic, I suggested storytime with my six and eight-years-old granddaughters. My son ran with it. I am so glad he did.
Here’s our story:
We set it up for a half-hour on Zoom or Skype Monday through Friday at a scheduled time. When there’s a conflict, we set another time for that day. Planning on a consistent time has been key to making it work.
The starting time has been consistent—give or take a couple of minutes. The ending point is more flexible.
My son often reads mature stories to his girls and told me to read chapter books. Well, as soon as they saw the first page of Wind in the Willows, both granddaughters said in unison, “Where are the pictures?” I suggest you ask your little people what they want.
Over the past few months, we’ve read dozens of picture books. When we start a new book, I often give them a couple of choices. When I run low on picture books, I will go online where there is a plethora of them, and I can split-screen * so they can see the pictures. When they are ready, I will move on to chapter books.
I often stop to discuss what is going on. It’s interesting to me and helps them think, problem-solve, and infer. Sometimes their little faces are glued to the screen. Other times, they roll around or play with their feet or jewelry. Make faces on the screen. Mess with their lovies. Sometimes I let them be. Other times, if I think they need their attention redirected, I ask if they can see the pictures or say, “I need your eyes”. Mostly, I make a comment or ask a question.
“Let’s roar like the lion.”
“Wow, do you see that guy’s hat?”
“Look at her—what do you think she’s going to do next?”
“How does that make you feel?”
I enjoy playing around with my voice and being silly or dramatic or whatever I think the character—and audience—merit.
After a few sessions, we invited two young cousins to join us once a week. At first, the boys were a little hesitant but, in their own time, they have come around and are as expressive with who they are as the girls.
I always begin by asking them to tell me at least one fun thing they did since I last saw them. I do this because our brains naturally forget the “fun” and remember the “bad”. It’s a survival thing our brains do. Remembering the fun things helps the children feel grateful as well as being listened to and seen—which is what they want anyhow. It also helps me get to know them.
We always feel free to change it up. Sometimes we create our own stories or just talk. Or they show me something—maybe a gymnastic move or a picture they just finished. Unless I think they need guidance or a couple of choices of activities when not reading, we do whatever they want. It’s all about connection and how they want to hang out. I’m hoping when they are older, we will want to take turns reading to one another.
I have only three rules. No dropping out of the group. If anyone feels like withdrawing or is upset in any way, they still need to hang around. They can become active members when they are ready. Due to time limitations, no fighting, no tantrums, no freakouts. They can go at it afterward, though usually, they forget. And they need to give me their eyes when we sign off so we can see one another when I say I love them.
As we know, this pandemic is wreaking havoc with our connections with our loved ones—especially the little ones. Storytime is a fun way to rekindle some of that missed connection. For me, spending time with my little relatives and seeing their beautiful faces is pure joy. I am sure it will be a special memory for all of us.
Give it a try. Once a week or every day. With a grandparent or another loved one. Make it your own and enjoy.
*Whatever platform you use you can likely split screen. If you don’t know-how, a convenient way to learn is to facetime a person who knows and can look at your screen and