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Narrative Skills

Narrative skills are the ability to describe things and events and tell stories.

Narrative skills are important for children to be able to understand what they are learning to read. An example of a narrative skill is a child's ability to tell what happens at a birthday party or on a trip to the zoo.

Why are narrative skills important to learning how to read?

  • Being able to talk about and explain what happens in a story helps a child understand the meaning of what he or she is reading. Good narrative skills lead to good reading comprehension.

What can parents do to help babies and toddlers develop narrative skills?

  • Name things (real objects and pictures in books) as you go through the day. Use songs and nursery rhymes.
  • Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk. Communication is two-way and involves interaction. This interaction helps develop parts of the brain involved with language.

Some ways of talking are better at developing narrative skills.

  • Talk to your child in ways that encourage interaction and a response. (Instead of “Get your jacket; we’re going to the park,” say “Do you know where your jacket is? Where is it? What shall we do at the park? What do you think we might see?”)
  • Ask your baby a question and then answer for her. (“Your diaper needs changing; let’s do that right now, OK? Good! We’re going to change your diaper.”)
  • Ask your toddler to tell you about something that happened to him today; ask for more details so he can expand on his narrative.
  • Ask questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” This encourages your child to think and increases comprehension.
  • Tell your child stories about your life.
  • Narrate your life. As you go through your day, talk about some of the things you are doing. Explain them in simple terms: For example, say “First we‘ll buy this pancake mix, then we’ll go home and then we’ll make pancakes.” This helps children understand that stories have a BEGINNING, MIDDLE and END.
  • As your child gets older, label not just things but also actions, feelings, and ideas. Happy, sad and angry are common feelings, but think of less common ones, too: embarrassed, quiet, sleepy, jealous, frustrated and others.



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