Once a long while ago when my children were small a very wise and experienced teacher friend gave me some advice she said:
‘Children cannot learn to read or write until they can tell a story.’
I believe that she is correct. Reading and writing are quite abstract concepts, and it is a lot easier to get your head around them if you understand the concept of stories and storytelling.
Indeed many anthropologists, state that we are a species are storytellers, and that it is at the core of why we’ve been so successful, (that and having thumbs!)
However some children find storytelling difficult, even intimidating, so this is a post all about finding ways into stores to help children learn to tell stories, and therefore foster a love of them, and hopefully reading and writing too.
As a writer myself, I can tell you there are few things more daunting than a bright white blank piece of paper. I like many writers, don’t start with the writing straight away, but begin with brainstorming ideas, doing character profiles, and even looking for pictures of characters and places in magazines and making mood boards. So why would we thinking asking a child to imagine and tell a story without any kind of preparation of stimulus would be easy? So here a few ways that can help children into their stories…
Prompts are great!
Story dice can be used as a fun family game, or as a prompt for inspiring story telling. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to carry around in a handbag or changing bag, to be used when kids get bored whilst out and about. They also come in different sets, like a horror, fairy tale and science fiction, so you can story tell in other genres.
For younger children, Story Wheels are great tools to prompt story telling. These have full colour illustrations or characters, animals, settings and props. You spin the arrow, and see where it stops, and use these as starters for storytelling.
A good few years ago, I utilised these while doing a remote author project with a pre-school. With small groups of the older children (aged 3-5), we spun the wheels to pick the character and settings. The children were very young, and were initially very wary about telling stories, but when they had characters and places picked for them at random by the Story Wheels, they become engaged and excited and their creativity shined through. The children then made up the beginning of the stories, which I wrote down.
I then send these story beginnings to authors Chitra Soundar and Rita Borg who wrote the ending of the stories.
I use the same children’s paintings, to illustrate the complete stories, and we printed them into a book.
The children love reading the endings of the stories, and seeing them illustrated with their own art-works.
Story Puzzles & Games
There is a whole array of storytelling card games and puzzles, which can be used to inspire storytelling. From the puzzles games for younger children, where you put together a liner story with piece depicting scenes that you used to tell a story, to card that do a similar thing but that can also be used as family games.
|An animation set up and ready from filming circa 2012|
In this day and age many children have access to devises which you can download animation aps to. Unlike when I was child trying to do stop-motion animation on a Super Eight movie camera, these aps make creating your own stop-motion. Children can use them to make animations, and in doing so they are also telling stories. This is a great way to encourage children who are reluctant storytellers, to begin making up their own tales.
When we got home, my son (a reluctant story teller but keen artist) went about setting up scenes with his favourite teddies, and drawing them. He then made the drawing into a story, that we got printed into a book.
Story Starter Boxes
For older children, a good way into stories is via a Story Starter Box. In fact recently in the news, there has been a story about a Sorcerers Box, that has been found in Pompeii –which immediately has all my writer friends on social media saying what a great inspiration for a story. The same goes for the Victorian Vampire hunter set that was found a few years ago, or even any time capsules that are found, they just get your creative mind going.
So to make you own, Story Starter Box, just find a box, anything will do an old shoe box, a matchbox, and old biscuit tin. Fill it with things that may be interesting or a bit quirky, here’s my list of suggested contents…
- Pictures or articles from magazine/ newspapers
- Small toys,
- Jewellery, fossils, stones, leaves. Dried flowers
- Maps/ drawing
- Anything small and interesting.
Give this box to your child, and ask them to write a character profile, or short stories about the contents of the box.
Thanks for stopping by, please comment if you wish, and good luck to you with any endeavours you may have getting into stories!