Why stories matter for children’s learning:
Scholars have found that stories have a strong influence on children’s understanding of cultural and gender roles. Stories do not just develop children’s literacy; they convey values, beliefs, attitudes and social norms which, in turn, shape children’s perceptions of reality.
Imagery activity may be a key to the building blocks of intelligence and education. When the brain images the brain releases endorphins and recent research has demonstrated that imagery also expands the size of the brain through the growth of new dendrites which are the branching protoplasmic processes that conduct impulses toward the body of a nerve cell. Imagery therefore speeds communication within the cells and between the cells in the brain.
Imagery building skills from oral word paintings involves a process of conscious thought that transfers to reading imagery skills. If you visualize what you hear, you facilitate the ability to visualize what you read.
1. Telling young children stories motivates them to read. Storytelling also introduces children to cultural values and literacy traditions before they can read, write and talk about stories by themselves. Elementary school teachers have found that even students with low motivation and weak academic skills are more likely to listen, read, write and work hard in the context of storytelling. Stories from the oral tradition celebrate heroes who struggle to overcome great obstacles that threaten to defeat them. With the help of skillful questioning, they can also learn to reflect on the personal and cultural values introduced in the story.
2. Children get more out of a reading assignment when the lesson is preceded with background information and followed with discussion. Poor readers of every age have difficulty connecting between what they read and what they already know. Telling a story provides a road map of information ideas and characters to the listener and when coupled with a discussion of the story, the student learns that the purpose of reading is to acquire information and insight.
3. Students read more fluently with greater understanding if they have background knowledge of the past and present. Such knowledge and understanding is cultural literacy. Telling stories that (a) describe people, events and places; and (b) incorporate shared heritage, institutions and values can provide the cultural literacy necessary to improve reading comprehension.
Intense exposure to stories and storytelling in the classroom stirs and develops the imagination. Learning occurs in the presence of demonstration. Learning is an interaction of concurrent events rather than a consequence of a demonstration. To learn to read and to write, people require:
(1) demonstrations of how reading and writing can be used for evident meaningful purposes,
(2) opportunities for engagement in such meaningful uses of reading and writing and
(3) a positive environment for the process to occur.
Storytelling provides imagery-building skills, creates an attentive listener, expands interest into new areas, centers the attention of the class, teaches language, story plots, folkways, ethics, traditions and customs. Storytelling can supplement and enhance the existing literacy program by supporting teacher’s language arts programs.
The entertainment quality of the oral story provides not only a mechanism to transmit information to an attentive listener but also has the residual effect of improving reading motivation. Storytelling affects the listener by expanding interest into new areas.
The oral story centers the attention of the listener and this process of focusing a group’s attention spills over into other educational activities.
Storytelling conveys language and story plot structure which enhances reading comprehension.
Stories are effective alternative methods of teaching cross-cultural understanding, family and community values, writing, and speaking skills. With some creative thinking, any other area of emphasis toward attaining a school system’s academic goals can be and has been assisted through storytelling. Teachers, by using their own creativity and drawing on librarians and media specialists for curriculum resources, can develop story tools in English, history, social studies, science, math, etc.
The oral story as a traditional transmitter of folkways, ethics, traditions, and customs is an effective provider of information that impacts on behavior modification.
The entertainment value of a story is only the icing on the cake. If a teacher desires to achieve teacher-student centered attentiveness, there is a wide range of alternatives. The story can be read aloud or told.
Characterization and dramatization can be added as a new dimension. The teacher may participate or listen. The students, individually or as a few in number or as a total group, may participate or listen. Varied combinations may be used to produce teacher student centered attentiveness. Tell a story that takes several sessions to complete. Be like Scheherazade, stop at an exciting point, review and continue at the next session.
The art of storytelling provides a flexible teaching tool. It is cost effective, builds imagination, provides an environment for learning, is a learning experience, and can be used with individuals or groups or with visual aids, sound effects and music; and your library already has the essential resources to start, and you and the students can become the resources for new creativity.
Storytelling may start with reading a story aloud to students, using your natural voice. Next, if you are inspired to be a proficient teller then set your goal, use positive thinking, go and listen to tellers, attend storytelling workshops, tell stories at every opportunity and begin to build your craftsmanship.
At Spin A Yarn India: our mission is to become the primary outlet of children focused content by encouraging the participation of India’s latent indigenous story telling creativity, knowledge, and culture.
It is through stories that we define our identity, express our history and culture, learn and engage in all aspects of society. Stories are not only the first medium for communication, education and social integration, but are also at the heart of each person’s unique identity, cultural history and memory.
Spin A Yarn India has created a platform to enable “Storytellers” to come together to discover and share their passion for stories. A community of creators, dreamers and explorers united by their love for great stories.
Spin A Yarn India is a partner of the United Nations Indigenous Language and the Bhasha Sangam programs. Spin A Yarn India runs as a social enterprise. Profit is reinvested to support children from underprivileged backgrounds to gain access to books, education and in general to improve the literacy of families across India.