There’s a story teller in all of us... One of our favourite parts of the day as a family is snuggling down to a good cuddle and a book at the end of a long day. When our youngest started being able to shuffle and crawl, sharing a book with our eldest became tricky. Despite providing our youngest with his own book, ours was obviously more interesting because the rest of us were looking at it and he wanted in too. But in order for all of us to enjoy this time without our eldest getting frustrated that the little man was obstructing the his story time, we changed tack. We took away the books and started to use our imaginations, all of us.
To begin with we stayed safe and told stories about Billy the Digger and his daily routine; a familiar machine goes about his daily chores. Then we introduced more characters, many shared the same names of friends from nursery; this time though they were all ants who needed to climb a tree; I forget why. Now, after only a few weeks we have our favourite protagonists who have triangular heads sporting carefully balanced bowler hats, with tummies as big as tractor wheels and the longest legs you’ve ever seen. Sometimes these characters are entering into spaghetti eating competitions at the local circus or running from tsunamis. Sometimes we can’t even remember where our stories began but we all really relish the opportunity to create something shared that is unique yet meaningful to each of us thanks to the shared process involved with storytelling.
My new found love of the art of storytelling has introduced me to TED talks: http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story.html and this really makes me want to develop my story telling capabilities.
As a Forest School Leader the ability to tell stories is a great skill to have up your sleeve. A lit fire, a relaxed group and a good yarn are so enjoyable, especially when the children start acting out the story or interjecting to direct the plot as it unfolds. This week, out in Free Rangers’ garden a small group of children came over to enquire what I was up to with P, one of our preschoolers. We were packing wet sand onto the side of the sandpit and trying to write her name without the sand cracking. Everyone had a go at packing the sand and soon we had a lovely blank canvas of smooth wet sand on which to make marks. I asked the children if I could make some doodles. They didn’t object and so I drew, using a stick, a series of random shapes and objects vertically on top of one another. I then asked if they could guess what they were. They all had a go and reasoned convincingly as to why one squiggle was clearly a feather and the other a coin, until they had agreed on every mark I had made. I then wondered out loud if together we could link all the objects into a story, they weren’t so sure, but that’s where “The man with a briefcase of music” was born.
Upon reflection so many learning opportunities presented themselves during this twenty minute interaction. Obviously communication and language are explored; made up words, rhythm and rhyme pop up; so too do different narrative styles and even story genres. Children must listen to the raconteur, sharing eye contact and recounting the events to those new children joining the group. When it comes to telling stories themselves, the ability to empathise with characters’ feelings demonstrates sound emotional development and including movement and music in stories promotes increased confidence in self-expression.
So how about it then? If you usually share a book with your child, try sharing a story created together. We would love to hear what happens or indeed if you already have some favourite home-made stories. What does your child / children love to hear about in these creative moments?
Finally, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not knocking the written word, I’m merely wondering if a love of literacy in later life stems from a love of the worlds it can create through the art of storytelling. If anyone would like to share a story that has been passed down verbally to them over the years, we would warmly welcome them to share it with the children.