Ideas for Sharing Stories with Children
This two-part article discusses the ways in which stories and storytelling play an important role in children's lives. Techniques are offered for using stories to help develop children’s verbal skills and imaginations. This is part one.
These ancient pioneers on the long journey towards civilization might have invented tales of personal bravado, tales of real or imagined ancestors, the very first collections of myths and legends, and the cautionary tales that would serve as lessons for young children and as guides for adults on proper human conduct. All of these stories would have advanced the group’s cohesiveness and provided respite from the dangers of daily life lived out in hostile environments.
Oral storytelling and the written word still serve much the same purposes today, although technology has provided us with larger audiences and with an ever-expanding arsenal of outlets for our urge to tell and to be told good stories. We are spoiled for choice, what with the easy availability of printed books, magazines, films, television, live theatre, puppetry, the Internet and more.
Yet, despite a panoply of print and electronic media, purely oral forms of storytelling do still exist and are in fact used every day by talented entertainers, by skillful teachers and librarians, and by loving moms and dads quietly sharing good books with their children at bedtime. The purpose of this article to suggest some variations on the concept of bedtime stories and to offer some additional ways that parents and others can both share precious moments and create some precious memories with their children.
1. While reading a picture book aloud, let your children take a good long look at each picture before you read that page’s text. Give them some time to analyze each illustration and discuss it. Coax your kids into trying to anticipate the events to come in the story. Encourage them to observe small details and speculate on their roles in the unfolding story. Take the time to appreciate the beauty, perhaps the delicacy, perhaps the humor of the illustrator’s artwork. Help your children develop a love of visual art and an eye for the variety of syles that may be used in picture book illustration.
2. When you read aloud, try to use your voice to enhance the drama of the story. Let your voice rise and fall to convey the natural rhythm of the text and to accentuate key passages. Modulate the loudness or softness of your voice. Try to change your pitch, rhythm or accent to bring characters’ voices to life, and don’t be afraid to include a few dramatic pauses at the appropriate moments. In other words, when you tell or read a bedtime story, give it your full attention and give it your all. Never be afraid of sounding silly. Your children are absorbing every new stimulus and are learning more than you’ll ever realize from each new story they’re exposed to, and from the very act of hearing language come alive.
3. If your children are beginning to learn how to read on their own, let them read to you for a part of the time. Perhaps you and your child can take turns, or your child can read a passage first and then you can repeat it, because children can understand the overall meaning better when they are not struggling to capture each word in isolation from the others on the page. Older children who have become more confident readers can be encouraged to read aloud to their younger brothers and sisters, making story time mutually beneficial for older and younger children alike. They all share in the experience of absorbing new vocabulary and enjoying the pleasing sounds of the words. They also thrill to the unfolding of the story’s plotline and sharpen their critical thinking skills as they judge whether the story’s characters are making good or bad decisions. In addition, the elder siblings are receiving valuable reading practice and gaining confidence in their abilities to read aloud and to speak in front of others. They are also learning to share family responsibilities and to take pride in the fact that they have something to contribute. Hopefully, sibling bonds are also strengthened, as the nature of this type of interaction is wholly positive, unlike some daily activities that involve competitive angling for parental attention or petty squabbling and tensions.
4. Follow up story sessions, either directly after the story or on the following day, by encouraging your kids to illustrate their favourite scenes from each story. This can range, for instance, from simple pencil and paper sketches, to colored pencil or marker drawings, or to elaborate watercolor paintings. It might involve sculpting story figures in aluminum foil or clay or any of a dozen three-dimensional techniques. Discuss such creations with your children and express an interest in everything they make. Let other people’s creations - the authors’ stories - become a springboard to tap into your children’s own creativity.
5. Have your kids close their eyes and describe a single scene or a setting from the story, See how much they can recall about such things as story events, illustrations of rooms or outdoor environments, and of where each object was placed in a scene. Then let them enrich it by adding extra details of their own making.
This is the end of part one.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Freedman-De Vito is a professional storyteller and artist. Her online company and website is Baby Bird Productions. Visit Draw and Tell Stories where you will find original draw and tell stories in several volumes of paperback books.