How the Telling of Personal Stories Enriches Literacy Learning

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There are many types of books for children: picture books filled with beautiful illustrations; fictional stories of characters and their adventures; nonfiction treasure troves of information for exploring the wonders of the universe, the world and its peoples; and delightful poetry created from carefully chosen words arranged in marvelous ways.

Without a doubt, interacting with books nurtures the language and literacy growth of children throughout their lives. Yet there’s another enduring way that parents and loving others can support and add richness to children’s language and literacy growth.

Each parent, auntie, uncle, gramps and gramma brims with life stories and unique experiences that could be wonderfully eye-opening and instructive for children. Adults’ personal histories can lend valuable insight to help younger generations process life events, both positive and negative, and create plans for a better future.

Personal stories, when age-appropriately shared with children, provide a bridge between the here and now and the time to come. Face-to-face sharings combined with the books that they hear or read will shape children’s maturing perceptions of life, carrying them into their own multiple possible futures.

I’ve written in previous blogs about the importance of conversation during read aloud time in the development of children as they grow into readers and lifelong learners. In this blog I want to emphasize the importance of conversations about the experiences of family members’ lives.

Each of us is our own closed book and teaching children how and why to invite us to open up and share our experiences and dreams could/should start rather early.

“What was the war like, Mom?”

“Tell me about a time when you got in trouble at school, Grandpa.”

“How did you learn to swim, Auntie?”

The intimate, casual conversations that stem from questions such as these will forever reverberate, impacting children’s lifetimes of becoming more mature in telling their own stories and in self-selecting books about the life stories of all the great people they will encounter in their futures.

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