This weekend marks the end of the 13th annual National Storytelling Week, organised by the Society for Storytelling to promote the oldest art form of oral storytelling. Before humans were writing, all knowledge had to be passed down orally and storytelling formed a fundamental part of knowledge transfer. Even with writing, storytelling plays an essential role in learning for our little ones - children learn through stories long before they are able to read or write.
Make sure that you are telling stories to your little ones all the time, and not just during National Storytelling Week! Even babyies who are too young to understand what is being said will benefit from constant exposure to oral communication. They will hear words and they will hear expression, and this all helps on that long journey towards being able to communicate themselves.
Find time in your daily routine to sit down with children and read stories. Make up stories and retell familiar tales in your own words. Older children might have fun by telling you stories in return, or by changing tales they are familiar with to give them a surprise outcome.
If you haven't done naything for National Storytelling Week so far then see if you can catch any activities at the weekend. See if your local library has some events on and go and join the fun...
Listening to and recounting stories is a terrific exercise for toddlers as it helps them think of a series of events and to develop their language skills. Sit down with a story that you enjoy and read it to them. At the end, ask them to act out the story themselves, with the help of a few props such as teddy bears, dolls and other relevant toys. See whether they are able to recall the story and act it through. Help them through if they struggle to remember it, you could even read the story again and again in order to help them.
Young children have the most remarkable memories and will quickly learn whole stories, such as The Gruffalo or Fix It Duck, after hearing it just a small number of times. If they can learn a book then have them recite the whole book and act along with their props. Books that rhyme are easier to learn because of their rhythm but even fairly long passages of prose can be committed to eager young memories with little practice.
Have your little ones take on the different characters in a story, and use different voices for the different roles. You can play along too, take on one of the roles, or perhaps act as narrator to tell the overall story while they act out the details.
Sending off your beloved little toddler to nursery is not easy - you can't stop thinking about them all day and when you get them back and ask what they did, they can't remember, or did "nothing" or did "playing"...it can be very frustrating!
So what can you do to get a bit more information out of your pre-schooler, or school child? Here are a few tips about how to glean a bit more detail to find out what they did while away from you.
Keep it focused and not vague
- Don't just ask, "What did you do today?" ask more specific questions:
- What was the best thing about today?
- What did you play in the garden?
- Did you play with any new toys today?
- What was the story?
Make it two-way!
- Share what you did. Tell of three activities you did and then ask for three things they did.
Don't force it:
- Details may come out later during tea or on they way home. Don't force details immediately as soon as you pick them up.
Talk about your school days:
- I loved PE and when I was little I used to...
Keep it relaxed and easy:
- It should be fun telling each other about the day not an arduous task. So, keep it perky and easy.
- If you fear they may be telling fibs about their day, (they were visited by a space man and the teacher fell into the sandpit and they all buried her!) then, go along with it. Make it into a fun story-telling activity!
There are lots of ways to liven up story time, both for you and your little one! Try some of these tips!
- Do the voices! You may think you sound silly, but children LOVE it when you do the funny voices for different characters in the story you are reading! Make them laugh, and they will enjoy reading, words, communicating and the story itself even more!
- Have a special time of day for stories. This means you won't forget to have stories and you'll both get used to the time slot as part of your routine.
- Read in different places as a treat. Hide in the shed and read a story or go out to the park with warm coats and some warm milk and read there!
- Theme your stories. If you know your little one likes farms, then get some farm or animal books and read them one day at a local farm! Go look for pigs as you read about them in the book etc. Bring it all to life!
- Keep them alert! Ask questions as you go along: how many sheep in the field; What colour is the ball? etc.
- Recap at the end of the story. Go over the story together to make sure they have understood.
- At the end, go back through the book together and find out which bits were best, which pictures were most fun, what happened next?
- Don't force them. Encourage them to want to hear a story, but don't force them if they are overly reluctant otherwise they won't enjoy stories!
- Let them make choices! Get them to choose the book themselves. Look at it together and make sure its a good one etc!
- And, most importantly... have fun!
There are lots of activities you can do with your child to introduce them to reading, that don't necessarily involve learning to read in the traditional sense. Here are some tips to make learning to read an easy, fun and inspiring time for both you and your children!
- Look at the pictures: Look at the cover, the pictures throughout the book. Discuss the style, colour scheme, characters depicted.
- Look carefully at the title of the book. Explain to your child what the title is.
- Look at the characters throughout the book. What are they doing? What do they look like? Do they remind you of anyone you know?
- Talk about the sequence of pictures in the book. Look for differences and talk about why may be happening.
- Chat about what might happen in the book. Predict a story together and what the ending might be.
- Make up a story with a different ending and describe what the picture might be if your ending was used instead of that actually in the book.
- Start looking at the words together. Follow the words with your finger and then with your child's finger. Chat about what letters begin each word and sound out the words together.
- Look at the pictures for clues of what's going on in the story. Show your child how the pictures can be a great help when learning to read.
- Focus on the easy words and brush over the hard words or those that are not easily read by new readers (the, said, giraffe).
- Chat about the book the day after and see how much you can remember together.
Most importantly, have fun when reading with your child. Don't get annoyed if they don't understand immediately or struggle on words they knew yesterday. Certainly don't force them to read or make them do it if they're tired or not in the right mood.
Enjoy... learning to read can be so much fun and they will make you so proud when they try hard and make progress.