on story time

as part of our literacy season a dadzclub resident expert talks about the importance of storytelling

I love stories.  I love reading them.  I love writing them.  I love hearing them.  I love telling them.  They are, to my mind at least, the greatest single human achievement. 

Through stories it is possible to gain an understanding of objects never seen, places never visited and emotions never actually experienced.  Stories can create environments and happenings beyond the realms of possibility.  They also make it possible to revisit events at which one was never originally present.  Furthermore, a story heard by two different people in two different places at two different times can provide common ground out of which a relationship can spring.  Indeed, cultures are defined by the stories they celebrate.  It is therefore fair to say that stories wield unfathomable amounts of power.  Chief among which, as every parent knows, is their uncanny knack of settling children down at bedtime, which is really rather handy.

Of course, stories are also just plain old, wholesome, honest fun and it is this element I urge you to embrace.   Story time, whether at night, after lunch, or even mid-morning should be an event.  In particular, a participatory event. 

The first step to a successful story time is the establishing of a dialogue between the teller and the audience.  Talk about the title of the story and what it means.  Discuss the characters, how they look, their strengths and weaknesses.

Remember the importance of performance.  Discuss how the characters talk (demonstrate different voices), include their catch-phrases, encourage your child to join-in. 

Make sure your child can see the pages as you read them (you're a big boy now so you can probably read text up side down, something your child might notice and admire), point at the words as you go.  Invite your child to turn the pages, but every now and then delay the next page and ask, "What do you think happens next?" Ask this even if it is an old favourite.  Also, pause just before a catch-phrase so your child can join in.

There are a host of fabulous modern children's books available.  I favour those with rhyming, sing-song text patterns because I can predict the text and therefore concentrate on emphasising the characters' dialogue and actions.  These same qualities, like nursery rhymes, make stories easier for children to remember.  Then there are the old classics, The Three Little Pigs, The Billy Goats Gruff and naughty little Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

However, the story is only the beginning.  When your child goes to school they will probably hear the same stories and because they know them, he or she will feel confident to join in.  Your child will play games based on favourite stories with other children and so make new friends.  But most importantly of all your child will have gone on hundreds of adventures.  Your child will have solved a handful of riddles, slain a dozen foes, saved a score of kingdoms and returned home safely every time, all thanks to you, Dad.


Great article, and one of many from Nick.

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    We value your opinion. Here are some of our readers thoughts on this item.

    • David inglis
    • Sunday 18 September 2011 8:08 PM
    • Good post - I think it's very important to read to your child. As an adult who loves reading, the emotions you go through reading a book are just fantastic and will do wonders for your child's imagination. Plus, it's great fun doing the voices :-)

    • John Jenkins
    • Sunday 18 September 2011 11:04 PM
    • Great ideas, especially when reading to more than 1 child...I also like making up different endings of old favourites or adding new characters like "Ben 10 and the Beanstalk" and the kids can join in and invent their own versions. Maybe not so restful at bedtime, but great for a rainy day.

    • James Huggins
    • Monday 19 September 2011 5:05 PM
    • Great post thanks Nick. It can never be stressed just how important sharing stories with your kids is. Apart from being one of the best ways to spend your free time, it is developmental gold dust for them. :)

    • Bev Evans
    • Tuesday 20 September 2011 3:03 PM
    • Great post. Storytelling, and the whole process of sharing stories and texts, is such an important thing for all children (and adults) to be part of.

    • Jeff Riley
    • Thursday 26 April 2012 8:40 PM
    • I get in late from work and miss out on story time through the week. Really enjoy Saturday and Sunday night with a rendition of the Gruffalo or something similar. Love the interaction with pop up books too!

    • Ben Wakeling
    • Thursday 26 April 2012 8:44 PM
    • My sons love it when I make up poems - almost as much as I do!

    • Jenni Saunders
    • Friday 27 April 2012 10:06 AM
    • Great article! As a storyteller and drama practitioner for the Early Years (with Debutots), I would say to all Dads (and Mums!) Don't underestimate the power of putting the book down! Tell them a story you made up, make up one together, if you think you can't make one up, tell one you know from a book from your memory. Books are wonderful, and I would never want to discourage people from sharing them, but without a book, children's imaginations can run wild as they imagine the pictures for themselves. Whether you read a book or tell a story without one, have fun playing with it. Explore the characters, their voices, their surroundings. Talk with your child about their favorite bit, what might happen next, what might have happened before the story. And if you are feeling really brave, jump up on your feet and right into the story world!

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