It’s bedtime and before the Croods say their goodnights, Grug, the head of the family tells his children a story. It was a story about a cave dweller’s terrifying encounter with a prehistoric beast that ended with the caveman turning into food. Grug goes on to illustrate the important message behind the story on the wall of their cave, just to drive down the message further. The children listened in awe. This scene is taken from the family movie “The Croods” and it perfectly describes how oral storytelling went down in history. Fast forward several millennia into the future we are still fascinated by oral stories.
Although many amongst us are strong advocates of reading to children, storytelling contributes greatly towards improving children's oral fluency and helps them understand concepts that ground literacy and literature. Concepts like sequencing, story structure, and the features inherent in different genres are all brought out during regular storytelling sessions.
And to get your children to begin their storytelling journey young, we have come up with 5 awesome ways to get your young ones to fall in love with storytelling.
Moms and Dads, telling bedtime stories is a great way to introduce your children to storytelling. Instead of reading from a book, share your favourite childhood tale with your child or simply make up a story. Create sound effects with your lips and mouth. Use different voices to make the characters come to life. When you tell your story with gusto, your children would get excited as they anticipate the climax and ending to your story.
According to Pixar’s top six rules to great storytelling, great stories must tell a story about an event in our life, have a clear structure and purpose, have a character to root for, appeal to our deepest emotions, have unexpected and surprising elements. Most importantly the story must be simple and focused.
We love it when children participate in our storytelling sessions. You could get your children to take part in storytelling by getting them to create foley from items found at home or expressing the character’s action physically by clapping, jumping, showing hand signs or hand gestures when they hear specific keywords that move the story.
Here’s a simple story that you could share with your children:
(Children need to gesture with their hands when they hear the word “big” or any words that has the same meaning as “big”)
The Enormous Birthday Cake
There was once a kind and generous king named William and he is very loved by everyone in the kingdom. At the end of every summer, King William would celebrate his birthday with his family in the palace but this year he wishes to celebrate his birthday with all his subjects. He instructed the royal chef to bake him an enormous cake. "Bake me the biggest chocolate cake you have ever baked in your life so I could share it with my people," said King William. The royal chef summoned 12 of the best bakers in the land to the royal kitchen. “The king requested an enormous cake on his birthday and I need all the help that I can get." Huddled in a group, the 12 bakers read the cake recipe together and quickly got busy in the kitchen. In the largest bowl that they could find, the bakers mix 2 huge bags of sugar with 3 huge bars of butter. Next, they beat 12 big eggs and added some milk. The chef puts in 4 large bags of flour and 5 giant cups of chocolate powder. The bakers and the chef worked hard to mix the ingredients. Finally, the mix goes into an enormous cake pan. With a heave and a shove, they pushed the heavy cake pan into a gigantic oven. Slowly the cake started to rise. It grew bigger and bigger and bigger till it became enormous. When the cake was ready, the chef and the bakers were thrilled. “It’s time to decorate the cake!" declared the chef. Using ladders, the chef and the bakers climbed to the top of the cake. They poured 8 jumbo barrels of chocolate ganache and decorated the cake with colourful sprinkles. The royal guards lit 55 large candles on the cake. King William jumped with joy when he saw his cake. "This is the most delicious cake I have ever tasted," said the king. He enjoyed every bite of the cake and so did everyone else.
Your children could learn lots from taking part in the storytelling process. For starters, they learn to actively listen as they need to pay close attention to the keywords. Active listening is fundamental to the acquisition of language. They get to expand their vocabulary, increase their knowledge and the whole experience would also encourage them to generate creative storytelling concepts of their own in the future.
Let’s Create Stories
Many parents out there have this preconceived notion that reading would advance their children to writing. They would get their kids started on the habit at an early age. Storytelling does the same too although not all storytellers can be good writers. That doesn’t mean that we can’t harness those writing skills.
Try out these storytelling and writing activities with your child.
A well-known ice-breaker activity in the classroom and at team buildings, ‘Tall Tales’ will get your children spinning amazing stories that are out of the box. Since it is a group activity we suggest that you do this fun activity as a family, perhaps during your game nights.
Each person will tell three sentences of a story and end with the word “suddenly…" The next person will then have to pick up the story and add three sentences of their own. ‘Tall Tales’ encourages the players to think on their feet and connect to the story that has already been told, basically trying to stump the next person to speak. Everyone gets a turn to continue the story. The story can continue around the room until you are satisfied with the story or when the group gets stuck. The only deal-breaker is that children younger than 10 may not have the storytelling ability to play so Mom and Dad got to assist them to communicate their story ideas.
Storybox is our all-time favourite activity as you get to bond with your child and get them talking about their feelings. Parents have to collect items, pictures or photos to put them in a box. It can be a picture of your children's school, their favourite ice cream or toy. Photos of grandpa and grandma, photos taken during your recent family trip or celebrations like Christmas. You may also include small toys and trinkets in the box. With their eyes closed, your child will choose an item from the box. Then he or she would need to share a story, a memory or an experience about the items that they have chosen.
After you have engaged your children with these activities, it's time to get them to write their stories. It doesn’t matter if they got stuck while playing Tall Tales and couldn’t find an ending. We want them to just get used to the idea of penning down their stories. In an event that they get stuck, don’t go forcing them to crack their heads to find the ending to the story. Writing a story is a process that shouldn’t be rushed. Encourage them to find the resolution by permitting them to complete the story when the suitable ending comes to mind.
For children below 10 years, we encourage them to illustrate the story. They can draw the story like a comic strip or storyboard with simple sentences or keywords to explain the picture. Over time, as they progress they could write lengthy sentences.
The one thing that you should never do throughout the writing exercise is to become a ‘Grammar Nazi’. You will only frustrate and discourage your child. If you spotted a grammatical error or a misspelt word just write the correct sentence or spelling on top of the wrongly spelt word or sentence and get them to rewrite the entire story again. Do not punish them by making them rewrite the entire sentence or words over and over again. You want to teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes. What's important is that you are aware of it and you correct them. That’s how we all learn. We always say, “to err is human, to edit is divine”. This is especially true in any creative work.
Let’s take the unique interactive feature of Me Books audiobooks. It has a draw and record feature that supports recording of narrative, foley and sound effects which offers total immersion into stories. Children have an opportunity to create their own story or choose to collaborate with their parents or a sibling and they can continue improving their craft. They can also combine theatrical elements into their stories by designing props, wearing costumes and doing a monologue mime from the recorded story.
Me Books Plus App offers a library of more than 300 interactive children audiobooks from renowned international publishing houses. Not to mention the voice narrators for the books are well-known native speakers like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir David Jason, Rik Mayall, Adam Buxton among others. That would help your kids to boost their pronunciation and diction, definitely a plus point for aspiring storytellers.
Encourage your children to be great storytellers
The great poet and writer Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you”. Everyone has a story to tell so let’s encourage our children to tell theirs. Who knows you might be nurturing the next J.R.R Tolkien or J.K Rowling.