Ever since the pandemic made inroads into our lives, we as parents and educators have seen children shy away or avoid social interaction. Renowned Educator Sonya Philip, who brings with her 40 years of experience in education, notices that the pandemic has made children cognitively, developmentally and socially weak. While parents want their children to develop social skills, they’re not quite sure how to do so as this is an absolute new situation for one and all.
In this exclusive article, Sonya shares how through storytelling parents and teachers can work together to ensure a safe and healthy deconfinement of children that will happily impact their minds and give wings to their imagination …
As a child, I remember spending summer nights sleeping outdoors in our garden. I slept under a white mosquito net and listened to my grandfather tell me stories about the stars in the sky. That experience developed a deep emotional bond between him and me. Till today, a night sky with stars brings back that connection with my grandfather. Now, my own grandkids beg me to tell them a story!
Telling stories has been part of human history for thousands of years. That is the power of oral storytelling. As humans, we need to be told stories. It is a social act that induces an immediate emotional bond between the listener and the storyteller. It fosters listening skills and stimulates the imagination since the listener has to picture the story.
Sadly, storytelling has declined as reading storybooks has taken precedence. Both are valuable but oral storytelling is different from reading a storybook. The storyteller can make the story come alive with gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions etc. to communicate the subtle nuances of the story.
First, let’s understand the multiple advantages of storytelling for children
1. Enhances focus:
Oral storytelling is very engaging and captures the attention of children (and adults). The children watch the storyteller use sounds, make intonations, use new vocabulary in a meaningful context. When a child hears new words in a story that is different from what is ordinarily used in conversations, they are able to relate with the word better and retain it for a longer duration, in contrast to, when they simply read it in a text. Psychologist Jerome Bruner’s research shows that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story. In the early years of growth, exposure to new vocabulary helps create a strong command of the language.
2. Allows imagination to bloom:
Hearing a story helps a child imagine and visualize it – the characters, the plot, the setting. This ability to imagine expands their creativity. It naturally invites role-playing and performance through imitation of the story
3. Increases Comprehension:
A study done by Isbell, Sokol, Lindauer and Lowrance (2004) showed that young children between the ages of three to five who were told a story, as against their peers who were read the same story, had higher comprehension. The group that listened to the story being told were better able to retell the story and identify the details in the story. Hence, oral storytelling definitely facilitates better comprehension as it is an effective way of remembering details.
4. Helps understand the world around them:
Vanessa Borris, a psychologist, writes for the Harvard Review, “Good stories do more than creating a sense of connection. They build familiarity and trust and allow the listener to enter the story where they are, making them more open to learning.”
5. Develops emotional bonds:
Deepa K, an education consultant, says, “Many parents feel that showing stories on the Internet is as good as narrating them, but storytelling is about interacting with another human being and using one’s imagination to visualize.” Whether you’ve heard the stories while sitting on a lap or while lying on a soft cushion, the human experience always remains memorable.
How to practice storytelling:
It is very essential that storytelling is done in the right way to yield results:
- Voice modulation:
Be involved in telling the story. Try to modulate your voice according to the different emotions the story is trying to convey. This engages the listener more.
- Use interesting props:
Multiple props like sock puppets, stick puppets, household items can add more fun to the storytelling process. Allow for role-playing where the child can become a character while you too could role play. This will also help the child to express the different emotions while enacting the story.
- Turn it into a creative session:
You can make up stories by saying one line and encouraging your child to add to it. This approach will build their listening skills and creativity. They will need to be able to connect ideas and even experiment with humour and be silly. Most of all, it will be a fun way to bond with those participating.
To conclude: Storytelling is innate to human nature and must not be replaced with other online activities for children. Old-school storytelling can help build cognitive, emotional and developmental skills while proving to be an effective medium to bond and share feelings.
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