Reading aloud to children has so many benefits! Andrew Pudewa, founder and director of IEW, identifies reading aloud as one of the two most important activities for future success in reading, writing, and speaking. Also, reading aloud facilitates story discussions with children. Even young children can understand “what makes a story a story.”

Story discussions are simply a friendly and gentle way of practicing literary analysis. Centerforlit teaches a wonderful method of literary analysis, which I use in my writing classes as the basis for the literature units. “Literary analysis” is a fancy term for investigating the elements of a story. The elements of story are Characters, Setting, Conflict, Plot, and Theme. All Great Books contain these five elements.

The Conflict is the main obstacle (problem) that the main character tries to overcome. The Conflict drives the story and gives it energy. Without a Conflict, there is no story. Weak Conflicts make weak stories. The stronger the Conflict is, the stronger the story will be. When choosing books for discussion, be sure to pick stories with a clear problem.

Using Picture Books for Story Discussions

Thankfully, one need not begin with a complex book in order to practice literary analysis. Picture books lead to great story discussions with children! It is also the best way to begin literary analysis with older students. A well-written picture book always includes all the five elements of story. Picture book analysis prepares children and students for analysis of more complex stories and novels later on.

Not only is it great training for analyzing complex stories, it’s just downright FUN to engage in story discussions with children! Join us in a reading of Shirley Hughes’s “Dogger.” As we read, we also discuss the conflict (problem) in the story. Watch the video and learn a simple way to lead your child or older student in a discussion of the element of Conflict.

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