The Benefits of “Page-Turn Wait Time”

A few months ago, my husband came out from reading with the girls before bed and announced that storytime had gotten significantly more meaningful because he decided to simply sit and wait at the end of a page. He wouldn’t turn the page himself, he’d just wait until either the girls turned it themselves or asked him to turn it…

As a teacher, I read many many studies about the benefits of increased “wait time” (the time between when a teacher asks a question and a child answers it) to the quality of students’ thinking and responses. Studies show, in fact, that “the length of student responses tends to increase at least threefold” when the wait time is at least 3 seconds. “Student responses tended to be more substantive, including more thorough argumentation and less mimicry of what the instructor had already stated. On top of all that, increased wait time appears to be directly related to increased student motivation!” (from https://ucat.osu.edu/blog/value-awkward-silence-increasing-wait-time-classroom/).

And we’ve seen the same thing in our house when we let the girls lead in terms of how quickly we move through a picture book! The girls notice more about the illustrations (which are often integral to the story in a picture book), they ask insightful questions about the characters or plot, and they make more connections to the stories. We learned from this that, as adults, we tend to move through picture books at our reading speed, which is WAY too fast for children to process the story, and WAY too fast for them to take in all the details given through the illustrations.

Fast-forward to early April, when I finished The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon (you can read my full review here), and she addresses this exact phenomenon. She writes:

With children’s picture books, it can be tempting for adults to flip through the pages at the pace of the prose… Looking with intensity, or “close looking…” calls for a change of gears, or a downshift. “If we want to be able to make the most of a picture— to be open to it and wonder why we feel as we do in front of it— we need to look not just as what’s being represented but rather at everything that presents itself, and grasp at the how as well as the what… The more you know, the more you’ll be able to discover and the more meanings you’ll be able to make.” (page 165).

How do you pace your picture book read-alouds? Are you willing to have your “page-turn wait time” feel a little awkward for the benefit of your children?

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