Children who are just learning to read can still study characters in a simplified form. They can still focus on character traits, types of characters, and the dialogue of characters. All of these skills are just as important for young readers to learn and practice.
Simple Character Traits
When you are just starting to teach children about character traits, stick to the simple traits that your children may have already learned about. Ideas like obedient, truthful, or disobedient are qualities that even very young children already understand. Starting with traits that your child has already heard of makes it easier for them to recognize those traits in the stories they read. You can also talk about the definitions of new traits as you come across them in stories. For example, when reading Curious George books, you could talk about the trait of curiosity and how George shows that he is curious.
Simple Character Types
Early readers will not understand the terms round or flat, static or dynamic when they refer to characters. However, a young child can recognize when a character changes in a story. It is easy for them to see when a character begins being kind to someone they were mean to at the beginning of the story. Talk to them about how the characters change even before you start using the actual terms. They can also learn from an early age which character in the story is the main character. Helping them identify the main character gets them ready to understand that we learn more about some characters than others.
Simple Focus on Dialogue
One of the first things you can teach your child about dialogue is the fact that a character’s words are enclosed in special punctuation called quotation marks. There are many fun ways to help your child recognize the dialogue in books. Take an old books and let your child highlight the words of each character in a different color. When reading with your child, use a different voice for what each character says. Then encourage your child to do the same. If your child is able to recognize the difference between dialogue and narration in a story, it will make it easier to use dialogue to study characters later on.
Even young children can still learn about the characters in the stories they read. Starting to study characters early can make it so much easier for them to really dig deeper into their characters as they get older.
How do you help your early readers learn about characters?
Photo by: SmartTutor.com