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How To Get The Most Out Of Storytime

How To Get The Most Out Of Storytime

If stats are to be believed, only a small number of us read to our kids every day. But making this your new habit will benefit your baby no end.

From the classic Goldilocks to the retro Very Hungry Caterpillar and the can’t-escape-it Peppa Pig, there’s plenty of kiddie lit to choose from.

But according to research, only 30 per cent of UK parents read to their children every day.

However, not only is this a cheap, easy way to keep your little one entertained, she’ll get loads of benefits.

‘Stories give your baby confidence, creativity and a love of language, and inspire a lifelong appreciation of books and reading,’ says Charlotte Collins, co-founder of Debutots, which specialises in interactive storytelling classes. 

And whatever reading matter you choose, there are fail-safe ways to make it a never miss for you both.

Pick a favourite


Babies thrive and learn by repetition, so don’t be surprised if she reaches for the same book every night.

‘Choose baby books you’re going to enjoy reading,’ says Charlotte. ‘You want it to be fun for both of you, so if there’s a story that annoys you, put it to one side.’

Get on the retro bandwagon and choose something you used to like as a kid – everyone loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Your baby will get a lesson in great design, too.

Get interactive


Many baby books have buttons, flaps and mirrors to grab your baby’s attention, so encourage her to play as you read.

Let her turn the pages and feel the books, especially textured ones

‘Let her turn the pages and feel the books, especially textured ones,’ says Charlotte. ‘Toddlers engage with animals, so pick books where you can do sounds, actions and encourage him to join in.’

Using puppets or teddies can help you tell the story. As can swallowing your pride – there’s an actor waiting to emerge from us all.

Use your voice


Babies are good at picking up on the tone of your voice, so use pitch and speed to build up tension or excitement. ‘Just think about what the character is doing and make your voice match,’ says Charlotte.

So if he’s tiptoeing, whisper, and if he’s shouting, raise your voice. Talking in a different way will grab your toddler’s attention and keep him interested.

Books at bedtime increase brain power

Research by Equazen suggests that reading a story to your children at bedtime can boost their brain power, accelerate accademic achievements, and reduce the risk of behavioural problems. 

A new report, SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT READING, authored by Philip Calder, Professor of Nutritional Immunology at the University of Southampton and an advisor to Equazen and independent dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, included the findings: 

  • Reading alters the way we think
  • Reading improves blood flow to the brain
  • Tablets, Kindles and other devices may lead to ‘digital brain’ and reduced concentration
  • Reading improves academic performance
  • 7 out of 9 trials show that children benefit from supplements of long chain omega-3 fatty acids
  • Children who struggle with reading are more likely to develop behavioural problems
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation produces “significant” improvements in children who have underperformed in reading tests.

References: esciencecommons.blogspot.co.uknews.stanford.edu; OnePoll omnibus survey of 1,000 parents of children aged four to 16, conducted in Spring 2016.

The best children’s books for storytime

The kids' books you need for storytime Expand Image The kids' books you need for storytime

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan, £6.99)

This book is undoubtedly the number one modern children's classic. It’s a publishing phenomenon, has sold over three million copies worldwide, been turned into a TV adaptation and led to numerous merchandise spin-offs (Trunkis, duvets, onesies…you name it). But it’s the simplicity of the fable-like story – a clever mouse escaping the clutches of other woodland animals – and the colourful characters and wonderful illustrations by Axel Scheffler that make it a firm family favourite.

Download the audio book!

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Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney 

This is the story of two Nutbrown Hares, Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare and how it’s impossible to measure how much you love your little one. A great story to read to your tot with a big cuddle at the end.
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Will Not Ever, NEVER Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child 

The first book in the now massively successful Charlie and Lola franchise, this is a fun look at the problem of fussy eating. Lola will not eat peas, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, eggs, sausages, cauliflower, cabbage. And she will absolutely not eat a tomato. But when Charlie explains that peas are actually green drops from Greenland, and that carrots are orange twiglets from Jupiter, even Lola is tempted to clear her plate.
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Maisy’s Bus by Lucy Cousins 

The Maisy Mouse range of books make great stories for babies and toddlers. They follow the exploits of Maisy and her friends Tallulah the chicken, Cyril the squirrel, Eddie the elephant and Charley the crocodile. The board books from this series are great if your teething baby is going through a book-gnawing stage…

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Eat Your Peas by Kes Gray 

This award-winning picture book gave rise to a series of books about Daisy, the spirited little girl, who doesn’t like much of what she’s given for tea – and will not be tempted by anything.
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Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromley 

This won Best Picture Book at Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2014, and we can see why. It starts off as a regular story about the Ugly Duckling, but suddenly the book is invaded by a hungry crocodile who starts gobbling up letters off the page, leaving the duckling shouting ‘St p! Mr Cr c dile!’ Plenty of participation from you and your little one will help you get to the end of the story.
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That Rabbit Belongs To Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell 

This story follows a little girl called Emily who owns an old stuffed rabbit named Stanley. When Queen Gloriana decides she wants the bunny for herself, Emily has to visit her and teach her how to love and care for Stanley because he’s so upset. Emily is a great character and the wacky illustrations, done in collage, pen and ink will catch your toddler’s eye.
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Do you speak English, Moon? By Francesca Simon

From the author of the Horrid Henry books, this is a beautiful picture book about a little boy who likes chatting to the moon. The illustrations are striking – there are lovely scenes to look at including deep-diving mermaids and cloud-topped mountains, smiling tigers and children all looking out to the moon.

Download the audio book!

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The Slightly Annoying Elephant by David Walliams 

The comedian and Britain’s Got Talent judge has written several children’s books, and this is his first picture book. It tells the story of a little boy called Sam who is amazed to wake one morning to find a rather annoying elephant on his doorstep.

Download the audio book!

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My Dad by Anthony Browne 

The grinning face of ‘Dad’ in his scruffy dressing gown make this book instantly recognisable. It’s a touching celebration of the relationship between a young boy and his dad, who, as far as he’s concerned, is so great that he can wrestle giants, jump over the moon and swim like a fish.
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Kicking A Ball by Allan Ahlberg 

Allan Ahlberg has been writing children’s stories since the 1970s and is still going strong. This book tells the story of a boy who loves kicking a ball – even more than eating ice-cream or climbing a mountain. The simple rhymes make it perfect for reading aloud to your toddler (especially if Daddy wants him to be a Premiere Leage footballer).
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Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae 

Owing to his ungainly physique, Gerald the giraffe can’t dance. However, a friendly cricket reassures him that everyone can dance, they just need the right tune! A lovely rhyming picture book about understanding differences.
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Stormy Weather by Debi Gliori 

An ideal bedtime book to read to your toddler, this story from the author of No Matter What follows different animals as they prepare for a safe night’s sleep, but first have to be reassured about the stormy weather.
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Goldilocks & The Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems 

A new take on a classic story, this book from popular American writer Mo Willems is fun for babies and with a slice of dark humour for parents – Goldilocks is described as ‘poorly supervised’ and ‘prone to barging into people’s houses’. Genius.
 

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The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Another classic that has stood the test of time, this beautiful story of Sophie and her very hungry tea-time guest is a must if you’ve got an animal-lover in your brood. Why not plan a tea-party for your own hungry tigers at the weekend? 

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The Dinosaur that pooped a planet by Tom Fletcher 

From writing songs for McFly to bedtime stories for tots, dad of two Tom Fletcher clearly knows exactly what little boys (and girls) love in a book. Teaming up with bandmate Dougie Poynter, the duo tell the story of Danny and Dinosaur on their mission to space (without Dino’s all important lunchbox). 

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Postman bear by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A lift-the-flap book for little hands, deep in the heart of Acorn Wood, Bear is writing letters to his friends. Written by the award-winning team behind The Gruffalo, you’ll love the easy to read rhyme. 

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Stick man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The adventurous tale of Stick man! A dog wants to play with him, a swan wants to build her nest with him, will he ever get back to the family tree in one piece?  

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 

This adorable story of Max and his monsters has entertained children for years. After dressing up in his wolf costume, Max wreaks so much havoc (sound familiar?) he is sent to bed before dinner. That night, his bedroom transforms into a forest, and he is taken to where the wild things are. The perfect night-time story for all those loveable little monsters out there.

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Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A story of a friendship between a witch and her cat, The Room on the Broom follows the witch on her broomstick ride, until she encounters a stormy wind and has to be rescued. If your little one loves this story, it’s now been made into a film (for those afternoons where they need distracting!) 

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