Instead of reading from a storybook, try improvisation. One parent begins a story and after a few minutes turns the narrative over to the other, who, after a few more turns in the plot, lets the kids pick it up.

Most children’s favorite themes are familiar people or animals, who may live in other worlds but are actually their family, friends, and pets and, coincidentally, even have their names.

A parent who’s away from home can participate in the story hour by telephone or, prior to leaving, can tape-record several segments for the stay-at-homes to complete.

An alternative: Prepare a picture story about your trip or your dinner out. Make your own drawings or cut out illustrations from magazines and write a simple text to tell what Mommy or Daddy is doing.

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