“Again, please!” says Peanut. “You want me to read Swimmy again?” I ask. “Yes, I like this book,” says Peanut. After about 5 times through, I’m kind of bored of Swimmy, although it is a fantastic book. I suck it up and start reading again. This time, I pause as I read, leaving space for Peanut to fill in the words, just testing to see how much he remembers. We’ve begun story retelling!
He fills in lots of different pieces of information, using vocabulary I haven’t ever heard him say in everyday conversation such as “escaped” “swallowed” and “lobster”. His memory is quite good and he can remember details for each page of the book.
When we read again the next day, and Peanut picks out Swimmy again (surprise, surprise) I read it to him the first time. Then, when he asks to read it again, I say “Now it’s your turn. You read it to me.” He giggles. But, after a minute of adjusting to the idea, he gets started. “All the fish were red, but one was black…” he says.
Why Story Retelling?
Story retelling is highly recommended by many early childhood literacy and language experts. Why? It helps little ones develop a number of important skills. According to the Center for Early Literacy Learning, benefits obtained from story retelling include:
- comprehension skills
- oral language skills (receptive and expressive)
Basically this means that children improve their memory of what they read, learn new words and are able to understand and express themselves in new and different ways as a result of this activity.
This skill comes fairly naturally to many children, especially if they are accustomed to hearing stories frequently. Children love to hear the same stories over and over again. During each reading, they are absorbing words, sentence structure and a deeper understanding of the story. Then, when they tell the story to themselves, they solidify this knowledge and convert heard language into expressed language.
How is Story Retelling Taught?
Story telling can start very simply. As with my son, you can naturally begin using story retelling skills as part of your story time and reading routine. Some great books to start with are repetitive books. Some of the first ones I used are:
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly
- If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
You can start out by reading books your child seems to enjoy over and over again. Then, you can try leaving pauses as you read for your child to fill in the words. Slowly, you can transfer the responsibility over to your child and have them retell the entire story. One of my son’s very first retells was Brown Bear Brown Bear, which he read to his little sister.
Story retelling can be enhanced by including sequencing elements. For example, rather than giving your child the book to use as a guide for retelling the story, create, download or purchase print outs, felt pieces, story stones or magnets to tell the story. These should be prepared ahead of time.
For example, for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, provide images of a caterpillar, the fruit and foods the caterpillar ate, a cocoon and a butterfly. Assist your child as she recreates the story, placing each image in order as she talks through the events.
In my next post, I’ll include some resources and ideas for story retelling that we’ve used (actually, this post is up now! Story Retelling with Clifford) For now, enjoy watching how Peanut retold the story Swimmy by Leo Lionni.