Is there a time in your house when there are no monster noises, no Nintendo background music and the only sound is your quiet voice? Answers to the following questions will help make telling stories a special sharing time for you and your family.
When should I introduce storytelling?
Children will enjoy simple stories, or books with perhaps one or two words under each picture, at the age of two.
How will I know if a particular story will interest a child?
Of course, a child's interests are as individual as he is. Stories relating to subjects that intrigue him are likely to be of interest. A child who is fascinated by space monsters may not enjoy the same story or book as a child who loves quiet stories and picture books with pastoral illustrations. Remember that a librarian can offer booklists or suggestions.
Choosing a story or book of an appropriate length also helps. Although this is also a matter of individual taste, for children three and under, picture books with three or fewer sentences on each page, such as "There's a Nightmare in My Closet or "There's An Alligator Under My Bed," are often enjoyable.
For children five and over, stories can range from one to fifteen minutes in length; you may want to vary the lengths when telling a group of stories.
Too, feel free to amend the story to keep it exciting. If a story has a difficult beginning, but becomes more interesting later, consider paraphrasing the opening. A story that starts with, 'once upon a time there was a princess with twelve brothers' becomes more compelling if you ask a question about the exciting part that comes later, such as, "Have you ever seen a dragon?"
If there is more description than you think your listener will appreciate, you might shorten that part as well. Remember that descriptive and narrative passages often read well, yet require a long time to explain verbally.
How does storytelling promote bonding between a parent and child?
By reading a story together, both the parent and child experience its events simultaneously. If a parent interests a child in a story, the child begins to focus on the parent as a real person with interesting things to say. Having fun together through storytelling is a kind of bonding that requires no money, and promotes a close relationship because, rather than concentrating on an amusement ride or video machine, the parent and child are focusing on each other.
How are storytelling and learning to read connected?
If you tell stories that come from books, the children almost always want to read those books. Children like to work with things that are familiar. When they first break into reading and using words, if they start with a story that has been read aloud to them, this feels safer.
Also, it doesn't hurt a child to read the same story over again and again, or to read it right after you've read it to him. Each reading helps develop his own understanding and reading ability.
What other ways can storytelling be used as a teaching tool?
Storytelling can be useful for teaching reality--not being afraid of dragons and monsters. Young children can learn to distinguish different animals, numbers, letters, and seasons, through listening to stories.
Stories can be used to help families think about values. You might tell a story and then ask a child what he thought about the heroine. Although he is initially on her side because she is the heroine, when he thinks about what she actually did, he might say, 'what a mean trick!'
Storytelling is also a way of teaching children about cultures. There are stories where the events might not seem fair in our culture, but within the mores and traditions of other cultures, aren't unfair at all. To teach children about other countries or events in history, parents can create stories based on factual information. When children study the particular event or country, it will be familiar to them from hearing the stories.
What are ways to vary familiar stories?
Drawing what happens in the story while you tell it is one way to add variety. You don't have to be a fantastic artist--kids love very simple pictures. Less complex pictures also help so that you aren't drawing too long between talking. It's also easier if you know the story well enough so that you can draw and tell the story without looking at the book.
For a fun change of pace, ask children to read or tell a story to you, not in a studious, "let's see how you can read," way, but with a "let's just tell this story together and enjoy it" attitude.
That can be very fun.