Everyday Narrative and Dinner Conversations

Children learn about narrative when they hear their own personal experiences fed back in the form of stories, told in past tense, with themselves or people they know as main characters. They learn that certain happenings are noteworthy and make better stories then others—such as surprises, exciting events, or unexpected twists in daily life. At this family dinner table, a three-year-old boy hears his mother telling a story about his day. By the end of the meal, he has taken over the job.

It’s dinner time. Three-year-old Matthew has his head down over a bowl of pasta, which he is vigorously slurping. His mother and grandmother sit beside him discussing the events of their day—work problems, errands done, good news about people they know.

“But how about Matthew?” asks the grandmother. “How was Matthew’s day?”

“Well,” starts his mother,“Aunt Lisa took Matthew out early this morning to go to storytime at the bookstore. But when they got there, they found out that the storytime was canceled.”

“Oh no,” replies Grandma sympathetically.

“So Aunt Lisa made a special day of it, and took Matthew down to the river for a ride on the ferry boat.”

Matthew—who up until now appeared to be paying no attention—suddenly looks up from his bowl, cheeks covered in marinara sauce. “Matthew ride on a boat!” he exclaims. “Water goes splash!” he cries, waving his arms up in the air.

“I’ll bet you saw some big buildings in the city,” says Grandma.

“Big buildings. Up to the sky,” answers Matthew, tilting his head back as though he still can see them.

“Then,” continues the mother, “Aunt Lisa and Matthew ate lunch in the city. And then they got back on the boat and came home.”

“And give ticket to the man,” adds Matthew.

The mother and grandmother both remark on what a fun day it must have been and Matthew adds a few more details—some real, and some made up (like the cup of coffee he now claims to have drunk.) Later, in his bath, he and his grandmother act out the major parts of his “story,” using toy boats in the water and two rubber ducks—one for Aunt Lisa, the other for Matthew—riding in the boat on their little adventure.

and at school, children also benefit from acting out stories that have been read to them using their own simple puppets or dolls. The action often goes well beyond the original story line. Also, encourage children to talk about books they already know and ask them to elaborate or add to the story line with their own creations, such as new endings or new circumstances for characters.

Book and Print Awareness

A child’s sensitivity to print is a major first step toward reading. Young children can begin to understand that print is everywhere in the world around them, and that reading and writing are ways for them to get ideas, information, and knowledge. Children quickly settle into book-sharing routines with primary caregivers. Infants often kick their feet, make eye contact, smile in response to your talking,

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