Who doesn’t love a good story? As children, it’s exciting to discover new places and learn about different characters with every flip of a page. And even as adults, it’s thrilling to introduce children to our favorite stories and get lost in the wonder and nostalgia of a great children’s book. If you ask any teacher, parent, caregiver, or child development expert, they’ll likely tell you that reading is one of the best ways to connect with a child and promote early learning. But, as with anything, there are ways to maximize the experience so kids truly get the most out of each and every story time.
Jacqueline Castro has worked as a nanny for 14 years, and in that time, she’s had the opportunity to develop a true passion for connecting and engaging with children through reading and for sharing her unique learning strategies with other caregivers. Most recently, she gave Westside Nannies a few must-know tips for elevating storytime and teaching children exciting new concepts through books.
First, says Castro, it’s important to establish a consistent daily reading routine, even making sure that reading always happens at the same time and in the same place. Reading should also start from the earliest possible age. “Reading is essential to a child’s development from the first weeks they are born to when they start elementary school,” says Castro.
Personalize the reading experience
“My approach [to reading] changes depending on the age of the child,” says Castro. “When I read to newborns, I like to use simple board books with bright colors and single words. By reading the same book consistently, the newborn will start to recognize and imitate the storyteller by the time they are 7 months old. When reading to toddlers, I like to use props such as stuffed animals, puppets, or felt storyboards.”
If you care for multiple children of varying ages, Castro recommends having a separate story time with each child, since children of different age levels require different things. “There are four distinct age groups to consider: infants, toddlers, pre-school, and school-age children,” she says. “ … Books are typically written for specific age groups, and not all children have the attention span for books outside their age group.”
While Castro says her approach to reading depends on the age of her audience, one thing that doesn’t change is her enthusiasm. “It’s important to keep the child engaged, which is achieved by the storyteller’s tone, character voices, and body language,” she explains. To engage kids, she recommends using body language, trying different voices for different characters, and keeping an energetic tone in your voice.
Not every child has an innate interest in books. For children who don’t necessarily love storytime right off the bat, Castro says to keep trying and to meet them at their level. “I learn all about the child and their interests, such as favorite colors, cartoon characters, and toys,” she says of reluctant readers. “I introduce storytime in a place of their comfort with a book of their interest and transition to a daily reading routine.”
In a recent Instagram post, Castro demonstrated why she’s so dedicated to helping children love reading time by writing, “I’ve come to learn that books and music are my primary tools to help children learn new concepts. I’ve helped teenagers test out of E.S.L classes in less than a year, I’ve taught 3 year olds to read & write, and babies to sleep train and communicate with me through baby sign language.”
Take advantage of local libraries
Castro says none of her amazing reading experiences would be possible without the help of public libraries. “I know books can be expensive, but your local public library is a huge resource for children’s books and learning activities,” she tells Westside Nannies. “I go to the library at least twice a week, for story time, books, and community events.”
In the Los Angeles area, try checking out:
- The West Hollywood Library: With an in-house coffee shop and an attached park, this library offers much more than just books. It also has regular toddler, baby, and family storytimes, as well as baby sing and sign classes.
- The Beverly Hills Public Library: This library boasts an awesome kids area, Mother Goose story time, and special events like Minecraft Day.
- The Los Angeles Central Library: This is an L.A. fixture with toddler storytimes, craft days, regular used book sales, and even coding classes for children.
- The Platt Branch Library: Children will love the bright and colorful children’s section at this library. They also have story times, a summer reading club, and a children’s chess club for those who happen to be budding brainiacs.
- The Silver Lake Library: The coolest part of this library is the chance for children to create their own books, which librarians will even stamp with a real barcode. They also have a huge selection of children’s books in English and Spanish, and a space for creative play.