Emotional relevance can be a great addition to your family’s shared reading times. Consider discussing not only how the character felt or appears to feel, but how your child feels about the story or even how your child would feel in the character’s place. Use the illustrations to make predictions about the story before reading a page. You can also link the story back to the child’s own experiences and feelings.
Adult: How do you think the bear feels right now?
Adult: Why do you think the bear is scared?
Child: His face
Adult: What about his face makes you think he is scared?
Child: I don’t know
Adult: Can you make a face like the bear’s? Yes! Let me try too! Do I look like the bear?
Adult: Hmm… Why do you think the bear is afraid? [Using synonyms for words builds vocabulary!]
Child: Maybe cause his mom isn’t there.
Adult: I don’t see his mom in this picture either. Do you get nervous when your mom isn’t around?
Adult: I can get nervous sometimes when I’m by myself too, but other times I like the quiet. Let’s read to find out more about this bear
Adult: Looks like the bear was scared of the spider. Would you be scared of a spider in the yard?
Adult: Why not?
Child: Cause they are cool
Adult: What do you like about spiders? [Let the discussion evolve from there! Perhaps pair with a nonfiction book about spiders or explore the Library’s databases]
Dialogue, just talking to your child, expands their vocabulary and helps them shape their world view. Obviously, discussing each and every page in depth may simply not be practical. However, it is easy to choose a page here and there- perhaps the beginning, middle, and end to highlight the changes the plot may make on the character’s and your child’s emotions. By talking about the feelings generated by the story or illustrations you are working on social-emotional skills as well as vocabulary. There are a lot of words that describe how one feels. Exposing your child to different words in context with stories will help them categorize their own feelings in their day to day life, and then verbalize those feelings with an adult who might be able help them.
Talking and reading are part of the 5 early literacy practices supported by Every Child Ready to Read® that will help build the important six skills: print awareness, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary, narrative skills, and print motivation. Adding emotional relevance to a story not long helps you get to know your child, but can increase interest in books while building vocabulary!