Dinnertime Storytelling Makes Kids Voracious Readers


Published:

©lilibella via 123rf.com

As a young child, I loved to imagine myself as a pioneer girl in Little House in the Big Woods, eating fresh snow drizzled with maple syrup. I even pestered my mother to make this treat with the dirty snow that fell on our Manhattan sidewalk. Not a chance.

Years later, I honored my young sons’ request to try a coconut after reading the adventures of Babar. Who knew that even a hammer and chisel won’t crack these nuts? I resorted to clearing out the sidewalk below and then pitching the fruit out a third-floor window.

It worked, but thankfully there are many easier ways to bring food and reading together than hurling coconuts or eating dirty snow.

Here are some of the connections I researched while working on my book, Home for Dinner. And remember, none of these requires a gourmet meal or a trip to the bookstore. Library books and a takeout pizza are just as good.

Dinner conversation builds vocabulary

For starters, there is the linguistic pairing of reading and eating, shown in such common expressions as “devouring a good book” or being a “voracious” reader.

Those sayings reflect the reality that children who have regular family dinners have a real leg up on being good and early readers. Years of research from the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development have shown that dinner conversation is a terrific vocabulary booster for young children – even better than reading aloud to them.

Rare words, those that go beyond the 3,000 most common ones, are 10 times more likely to show up in dinner conversation than in storybooks. When parents tell a story at the dinner table about their day or recount a funny family anecdote, they usually include many words that a young child hasn’t yet learned but can understand from the context of the story. Children who have rich vocabularies, packed with less common, more sophisticated words, learn to read more easily because they can make sense of the words they are deciphering.

Encourage children to tell stories

The benefits to children don’t just come from listening to stories. Children who know how to tell stories are also better readers. In one large study, kindergartners who were able to tell stories grew up to be fourth- and even seventh-graders with higher reading comprehension than those kindergartners who lacked narrative skills.

Dinner is a prime time for children to tell stories and to be encouraged to tell better stories. Researchers have found that children can be taught to tell longer, more information-packed stories with a few simple instructions.

  • Reminisce with your children about past experiences you’ve shared with them. “Remember when we forgot to take the brownies out of the oven?”

  • Ask a lot of open-ended questions, including plenty of “how” and “why” questions rather than questions with yes-or-no answers.

  • Encourage longer stories by repeating what your child says or by elaborating on her story.

  • Instead of deciding what story to tell, follow your child’s lead on what she wants to talk about.

In this study, children who were given these instructions had bigger vocabularies and told more complex stories a year later.

Make a literary meal

There are other tasty connections between food and books. Consider the banquet of children’s books that feature food as a central force in the action. There are the magical noodles in Strega Nona, the pomegranate seeds that bind Persephone to Hades, the irresistible Turkish delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the whimsical tribute to picky eaters, Green Eggs and Ham.

Just as dinner conversation can lead to more reading, reading can be the prompt for meals and for conversation. Parents and children might recreate a favorite literary meal for dinner, and then read that book, or a portion of it, aloud. Split pea soup from George and Martha or spaghetti and meatballs from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs are two possibilities.

And, don’t forget the many nursery rhymes that involve porridge, rice pudding and blackbird pie (to name just a few). It could be fun to imagine what Harry Potter might eat for dinner at Hogwarts or to create a high tea that Mary Poppins might like.

Of course it’s not just children’s literature that gets our mouths watering. Melville devotes a chapter to clam chowder in Moby Dick, and in Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, the philandering husband gets his comeuppance with a Key lime pie in the face.

If cooking a literary meal doesn’t get you in a reading mood, here’s another idea for a dinner: ask family members to talk about one book that changed their life. That dinner conversation might just jumpstart some bedtime reading.

Anne Fishel is a co-founder of a non-profit organization, The Family Dinner Project, that helps families online and in person have more and better dinners together.

See also:
Outdoor Preschools Bring Affordable Education to Parks
The Rad History Book Every Girl (and Boy) Should Have On Her Bookshelf

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

July 20, 2018

Sleeplessness could easily result from a post-midnight lunar opposition with Uranus. The extended hours awake could bring an exciting epiphany. Thanks to Saturn sleep is easier and more restful as the morning light breaks through night’s darkness…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

July 2018

Join us for a monthly gathering of like-hearted people to give and receive angelic energy healing. This session is a combination of group meditation and discussion, along with working in pairs...

Cost: Scale $5-$20 ($10 suggested)

Where:
Pathway Of Joy
884 Broadway, Suite 12
Upstairs in the Spiritual Renaissance Center building
South Portland, ME  04106
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This special 2-part evening offering. Earn your Integrated Energy Therapy® certification in two evenings, while leaving your summer days and weekends open to enjoy the season. Part 1 is...

Cost: $195

Where:
Pathway Of Joy
884 Broadway, Suite 12
South Portland, ME  04106
View map »


Sponsor: Pathway Of Joy
Telephone: 207-329-7192
Contact Name: Linda Huitt
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

What better way to end a busy day than with a little bliss. We'll support your body right where it is today and help you to open your spine to find more movement and flexibility. Begin and end...

Cost: $18

Where:
Body Love Wellness Center
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Relax and restore this summer with free outdoor yoga classes on historic Rogers Field! We’re packing the lawn with yogis of all levels for yoga led by experienced practitioners from Dragonfly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Rogers Field
Devens, MA


Sponsor: Dragonfly Wellness Center
Telephone: 978-487-7181
Contact Name: Anne Ferguson
Website »

More information

If you are worried about getting Parkinson’s or have beginning symptoms, check out a free intro on how to rewire your brain from the inside. First and third Wednesdays of the month,...

Where:
, MA


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please note this event is held at an off-site location at the Double Tree Hilton in Danvers, MA There will be a book signing following the mediumship demonstration, and as part of your ticket...

Cost: $45

Where:
Double Tree Hotel
50 Ferncroft Road
Danvers, MA  01923
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

July 20 - 22 The Chinese internal martial arts derive their extraordinary power from the conscious control of one’s subjective state-of-being and the use of jin (internal power)....

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The mission of the 4th Annual Compassionfest is to unite like-minded people that believe in the values of being just, kindness, equality and compassion. We’ll gather for delicious vegan food...

Cost: Free

Where:
Whitneyville Cultural Commons
1253 Whitney Ave
Hamden, CT  06517
View map »


Sponsor: In Defense of Animals
Website »

More information

Saturday, July 21, 10:00am – 4:00pm & Sunday, July 22, 10am – 4:00pm With Patty Collinsworth Get the beginner certification before Linda Howe comes in person to teach a new...

Cost: $170

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
90 Main Street
Andover, MA  01810
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Saturday, July 21, 10:00am – 5:30pm & Sunday, July 22, 10am – 3:30pm Instructor:  Peyton Pugmire What brings you joy and a sense of purpose?  These are your soul...

Cost: $160

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Sponsor: Creative Spirit
Telephone: 617-817-4547
Website »

More information

July 21 - 22 NEMHoFest, is New England’s premiere metaphysical festival. This year’s line-up includes world renowned guest speakers and vendors from across the...

Where:
Augusta Civic Center
Augusta, ME


Website »

More information

The GFAF Expos are the greatest events on earth for those living a gluten-free or allergen-friendly lifestyle. Sample hundreds of products, meet with local and national brands, receive coupons and...

Where:
DCU Center
50 Foster Street
Worcester, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags