The universe is made of stories, not atoms.-Muriel Rukeyser
The process of sharing stories through oral storytelling is an age old tradition amongst families of many cultures but does it have a place in our busy modern day family life?
I think it does.
When a baby is born we spend a lot of time talking to him/her. Talking about what we are doing, what we have done, what we are planning to do. These everyday stories are fascinating to a baby and you can often see them looking and listening attentively to the speaker, mimicking their facial gestures and, eventually, trying to interact by making verbal noises in response to the storyteller.
Storytelling, the process of sharing stories without the aid of a book, with toddlers and older children continues this process of developing attentive listening through a more person to person interaction than that involved in reading a book. The voice and gesture of the storyteller becomes the focus and so the teller and listener turn towards each other rather than outwards towards the book, and the words without pictures allow the listener space to create their own imaginary interpretation of the story being shared.
Some strategies for sharing oral stories with young children…
– Remember it is the tone of your voice, followed by facial expressions and gestures which engage your child with the story. As Mark Twain said;
“Don’t say the old lady screamed – bring her on and let her scream.”
– Choose a quiet time without distractions, so you aren’t competing to capture their attention and imagination, to develop a routine of storytelling time.
– Include your child as a character in the story. Toddlers particularly love stories about themselves and the activities of their day.
– Share a story from your own childhood or personal history. Family stories teach children about their heritage and those told and re-told around the dinner table or at family gatherings become part of your shared family history, likely to be passed from one generation to the next.
– If you are not confident to make up your own story, start with your own adaptation of a traditional fairy tale. Immy currently loves listening to both Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Cinderella.
– Once they are capable, encourage you child to share their own story. As short as their initial attempts will be, I promised you will find them highly entertaining.
– Nursery rhymes, jingles, poems and chants are like short versions of stories which children can easily join you in sharing.
– Simple dress ups, puppets or felt pieces on a felt board can be used as simple props to assist you in your storytelling attempts.
– Stories can help older children understand new experiences or emotions, expanding their understanding of the world and human interactions.
– Although no replacement for the face to face benefits of storytelling, websites such as AudioOwl and StoryNory offer a range of children’s audio stories which are great as a tool for developing attentive listening skills.