The importance of telling children stories

Feb 2016

As part of our ongoing celebration of National Storytelling Week (30 January - 6 February), we have considered the importance of storytelling, both as the teller and the listener, and the positive impact this has on a child's learning and development.

Character development
Storytelling is fundamentally about sharing - sharing plots, but more importantly sharing emotions and experiences. It is a great social activity which strengthens relationships and forges memories.

The role of storyteller will greatly improve a child's oral communication skills, as they become accustomed to speaking for an extended period of time and communicating with adults.

Encourage your child to share their own stories; this may be about an event which took place in school, or a conversation they shared with a friend, etc. In relaying this information they will develop confidence and improve their conversational skills.

Telling stories to children enables them to learn the art of listening. Children prefer to talk rather than to listen, so to get this skill honed from a young age will go onto serve them well in a classroom environment.

Mental stimulation
Children are naturally curious, and storytelling is a great medium to encourage and channel this curiosity into a learning opportunity. As a story progresses it begins to invite questions from the listener: "What's going to happen next?", "Will there be a happy ending?" A child will begin to form these sorts of questions in their minds, so encourage them to ask and then discuss together. This will boost their thinking capacity whilst keeping them focussed and engaged.

A common question a child will have is: "What does that word mean?" This is an excellent question which demonstrates the importance of storytelling to introduce new vocabulary to a child and increase their literacy proficiency. New vocabulary given through the context of a story will additionally be much easier for them to understand and successfully use themselves.

Storytelling surreptitiously teaches children the elements of a story - the beginning, the middle, and the end. As well as familiarisation with the structure, they learn about popular characterisations, for example, the presence of 'goodies' and 'baddies'.

Creative growth
Listening to stories will enrich their imagination. Unlike a picture book where images are prescribed, each listener has their own unique response to a story. Storytelling offers this imaginative freedom like no other medium. This enhanced creativity will filter through into role-plays children perform, games they play, pictures they draw, etc. making them more thoughtful and intricate.

Whether a child is giving their own narrative or listening to a story, through storytelling they are speaking, listening, and thinking, all wrapped up in a fun family activity.