As far back as we can trace human existence; story telling has formed an integral backbone in all cultures! Story tellers have not only passed down history mixed with legend but they also brought news, taught valuable lessons through narrative text and shared fundamental pieces of their culture with generation after generation.
Yet once again in our technological, communicative age we’ve lost the need for good story telling. Yes, many of us enjoy reading a good book but as the years go by so the standard of the books being produced are generally dwindling.
Without growing up amongst story tellers, or great books, our children now need to be trained to tell a good story. Many pre-schoolers and primary school children battle telling their news about what they did in the holidays or over a weekend. Yet, they can all tell great tales about another’s misdemeanours. When describing another’s disobedience or a dangerous feat, then their faces are alive and their voices animated. Is this because adults actually look up and pay attention when children bring tall tales but seldom acknowledge their speech when told about finding a tortoise in their garden?
As soon as your child can string sentences together and recall an event, write it down, praise them, show them where you wrote it and then read it to someone else in front of your child. If your child is not yet a competent writer ask them to verbally tell a story whilst you write it for them. Too often we expect children to write down their thoughts before they are able to write competently. This results in them having to concentrate exceptionally hard to form their letters correctly, worry about spelling and capital letters, during which time they lose the story line. We then expect them to read their scrawled words to try rediscover where they were. We could compare this to expecting a fireman to perform a heart operation, whilst reading the manual on how to do it at the same time. Instead let’s help our children as best as we can. When their faces are beaming and the story is flowing, grab a pen and write it for them.
To help encourage story telling within your daily life allow your child to read their stories onto tape or video themselves. On holiday recall the day’s events around a camp fire, encourage animation and expression. At the dinner table talk about your daily experiences. Let this happen in such a way that your child wants to be involved in the conversation and share their stories too. Above all listen to your child and show interest in whatever it is they want to tell you.
Reading together, from birth, cannot be over emphasised. A few generations back only a few people in each community could read. This meant that story time was an event, everyone would gather around to listen to the story being read. Through listening to the story teller’s voice and watching their facial animations others would have been able to recount what they had heard. Too often we think once a child can read they no longer need to be read to. On the contrary, they are now ready to learn how to read with expression and retell their own stories, which is learned through watching and listening to others read to them.
Story telling is an art that is being lost. Like all other arts it needs to be practiced and honed. Let us let our homes be an encouraging and safe place for our children to develop this fundamental life skill.