When a bunch of preschoolers gather together, it is almost certain that someone will read them a story. This is with good reason! Storytime is a wonderful, developmentally appropriate way to engage littles—and there are so many beautifully illustrated storybooks available to help convey important biblical principles.
It’s not always sunshine and roses, though. When storytime gets rough, this activity can be filled with adults reminding kiddos to sit down, pay attention, and stop interrupting. Instead of being a wonderful time of reading and discussion, it can become something to get through. Here are some quick tips to improve your storytime so you and your class can love it, too.
- Choose wisely: When selecting books, look for ones that are age appropriate. For preschoolers, that means mainly books which have large illustrations and simple text. Bonus points for books which feature repetition and rhyming!
- Read ahead: There are two reasons to always read a book yourself before reading it aloud to children. The first is to screen the pages for anything inappropriate—like violence, racism, sexism, or other bigotry. Also, our read-aloud skills increase incrementally when we are familiar with the vocabulary and the rhythm of the story.
- Plan your interactions: Another benefit of reading the story ahead of time is that you can plan your interactions out. (Quick tip: write your plans on sticky notes and put them on the corresponding pages to help you remember!) How will you engage the students? What questions can you ask? For instance, here are some ideas for interactions:
- Ask about the illustrations: Pay special attention to the expressions on the characters’ faces. These can be great discussion starters: “Wow, look at her face! She looks worried! Have you ever felt worried?” “Oh, he looks sad! Why do you think that is?”
- Prompt the kids to predict what will happen next: “Do you think she made the right choice? What will happen?” “Do you think they have a good plan? Why?” “Do you think Jesus will help them?”
- Link the story to their own lives: “Have you ever been scared to tell the truth like this character? What did you do?” “If you are hurt, who helps you?”
- If there is repetition or rhyming, try pausing before reading a predictable word to see if the kiddos can finish the sentence. “The sky was getting DARK! The animals went on the . . .”
With a little preparation, storytime can be a great relationship-builder and an effective way to share the gospel with littles. Practice makes perfect—experiment with modulating your voice (sometimes a good stage whisper can make children lean forward to hear a meaningful part of the story), with adding motions (can your class march in place while you tell the story of Jericho?), and even using props. As you find what works best for you and your class, you may find that storytime is your favorite part of the day!