Thursday, May 25, 2017

Narration for the Young Child

Narration is one of the most important keys in a Charlotte Mason education. I'm sure everyone knows what narration is, but in a nutshell, narration is the art of telling back what you've heard or read. The amount of narration you should expect from a child, of course, varies with age.In my opinion, a five year old should be able to narrate one complete sentence that expresses an important point in the story he has been read, while a ten year old child should be able to narrate in at least five sentences the main ideas he has read or heard. All of this will vary according to your child's ability, as well.

Sometimes, narration gets overlooked by the mothers of young children. It is such an important skill, though - listening, comprehension, vocabulary, speaking, attention to detail... It should not be ignored or overlooked, and it's such a simple thing at this young age, that you may already be practicing this without realizing it!

Tonight, while my 4 year old son, Titus, was bathing, I sang with him the song of Zacchaeus (the wee little man). Afterward, I told him the story of Zacchaeus in about twenty sentences. I didn't talk down to him, but I did use age-appropriate words with plenty of details. I didn't ask for a narration, but when I got through telling the story, I sang it again. After I sang it the second time, Titus proceeded to narrate the story to me without prompting. He used about five sentences, including several details I told him. Some of the sentences he repeated word-for-word from my story. I was impressed.

Here are a few ideas and tips for practicing narration with young children:
  • Read to them while they are somewhat still - in the tub, in the bed, while they're eating.
  • Read Bible stories, poetry, nursery rhymes, and classics. Read magazines, newspaper articles, and your own books aloud - not directly to your young child, but within earshot.
  • Retell stories you remember - it will show that you also use narration in your everyday life and that is is a useful skill.
  • Do not use a baby-voice or baby words when telling a story or reading a book. You may simplify some words if you feel necessary, but do not talk down to your child.
  • Don't ask what your child remembers - ask, "Could you tell me the story now?" When your child feels like you are interested in being told a story, they are more likely to include details and make it interesting.
  • If your child needs prompting, you can prompt them. Try not to ask a question, but say something like, "And then the little boy..." leaving your child room to finish the sentence and perhaps continue with his narration in more detail than he originally intended.
  • Don't make it feel like something he has to do after ever story, every book, every nursery rhyme. Choose maybe one or two times a day for narration (assuming you read quite often to your child).
  • Try to say something positive after your child's narration. "You remembered exactly what happened in the story." "I love how you described the grandmother's coat." "I am so glad you included how Timmy felt when he lost his dog." 
How do you practice narration with your young children?


  1. My kids were taught to "re-tell" a story in public school and with so much detail that it always made me cringe. We're learning what "summarize" means now.

    1. Yes, a narration is a summary. Definitely not a long spew, especially at this age. When a child enjoys what he is retelling, it makes it enjoyable for mom, too. I love narrations!

  2. That's so sweet that he narrated without prompting. Such a good model for him, good job, mom!