Telling stories to children

People have told stories for centuries to explore ideas and make sense of their experiences. In fact, sharing stories is as natural to human beings as eating and sleeping! Some of the stories we tell today have been passed down from generation to generation, while others are new ones that we create ourselves.

Making time to tell children stories can be fun and satisfying for everyone. It also lets young children know that you value spending this time with them. But storytelling has other great benefits too. Here are some of them:

* Storytelling is a great way to teach children the life lessons you want them to learn. Great stories allow children to explore and think about love, hate, jealousy, kindness, power, good and evil.

* Storytelling stimulates children’s imagination and their use of language.

* Stories can transport and connect them to the lives of people they’ve never known, who come from long ago and places faraway.

* Telling stories about your childhood experiences helps your children to connect with you.

So, how do you get going? Well, it’s always easiest to start with stories that you know. Also, think about which stories will interest your listeners and what is appropriate for their ages. For example: you wouldn’t tell a ghost story to three year olds, but teenagers might enjoy it! Build up a bank of stories to tell and then keep finding new ones by looking in books or on the Internet. Translate and adapt stories that may only be available in one language. Keep them in a special folder or a book.

Practise telling a story by telling it to yourself until you know it well. Then, as you tell it to others, remember that your voice and your body are your main tools! Use them to create pictures in the minds of your listeners by using:

* interesting and expressive words

* facial expressions, like scowling to show how angry a character is

* gestures, like stretching out your arms to show how wide something is

* expression in your voice that gives different characters, different sounding voices, like a soft voice for a shy character.

But, most of all, remember that if you enjoying telling a story, there is a good chance that your audience will enjoy listening to it!

How reading helps children with maths and science

Did you know that when children read stories it helps them develop ways of thinking that are important for success in science? To be a scientist, you need to be able to ask “what if” questions, make informed guesses and then test these guesses. Children need lots of opportunities to develop this kind of thinking – and stories provide these opportunities.

* Drawing conclusions: Think about the stories you’ve read recently. How much of what you got from the story was given to you directly? Often stories give you clues rather than telling you something directly. For example, when you read, “Dan yawned and rubbed his eyes”, you draw the conclusion that Dan must have been feeling tired. You do this by using the clues from the story and what you already know about “real life” – although you probably don’t even realise you’re doing it! Help children develop their ability to think in this way by commenting and asking questions as you read stories together. For example, say, “I think he’s tired. Do you think so too? How can you tell?”

* Predicting: Every time you ask children, “What do you think will happen next?” as you read aloud, you encourage them to use what they have already read and what they know, to predict what is still to come in the story. Learning to make fairly accurate predictions is an important part of being a successful reader. It’s also an important science skill! Scientists predict what they think will happen when they test a theory they have developed.

* Sequencing: In stories, there is a specific order in which things occur: first Goldilocks goes into the bears’ house, then she tries their porridge, then she tries sitting on their chairs. So, as children read more and more stories, they learn about how things happen in a sequence. This understanding helps them with science experiments at school where they have to be able to notice a series of changes that take place and then describe them.

* Solving problems: Reading stories to children develops their imagination and encourages them to be creative. Creativity is very useful when you’re trying to think up new ways of solving a problem – something that scientists do often!

And finally, you’re never too old to get these benefits from reading – so make sure you keep reading yourself too!