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?Why parents should encourage children to listen to and tell stories

By Meshak Warambo | May 29th 2021

“Stories, like food, lose their flavour if cooked in a hurry.” -Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Kenyan literature is one of the richest in Africa and local writers have played a decisive role in promoting African writing across the world. Similarly, Kenyan proverbs and folktales have deep meanings that offer gems of wisdom.

They promote a love of reading, discovery of ideas as well as life lessons, especially so for children given that childhood is all about exploration and discovery. More importantly, these two major components of childhood development come in small, simple ways. One way is to tell a story. 

Stories also play a vital role in the intellectual and emotional growth and development of children. When you tell a story, there is a magical moment not only in yourself but also in your audience. Children will sit enthralled, mouths agape, eyes wide open, capturing the essence of what you have to say; add a touch of dramatisation and they will be hooked to your stories for life.  

Children love stories. Storytelling remains one of the most important forms of communication and passing down heritage over centuries. Children learn how to enjoy a story for pleasure, discovery and research and also to help them make sense of the world and themselves. Telling stories allows them to experience different worlds, countries, peoples and traditions.

It also helps to develop an appreciation of the rest of the world as well as an understanding of where each person and culture belongs and enhances their appreciation of their own cultural roots by offering them insights into their own traditions and value system. More importantly, stories give children a universal life experience. Storytelling, therefore, opens their minds to new ideas, ways and possibilities. 

Active role playing

We all take part in storytelling in one way or another; be it the story of how we spent our day, our life story or the news we consume and share every day. Storytelling has been proven to help develop a sense of empathy because through it children are encouraged to put themselves in the position of the story’s character. Stories touch on our imagination, as we feel ourselves playing a role in the story in time and place.

It is how we come to understand the workings of the world we live in. Storytelling allows the audience to consider the characters in the actions and their reactions to what happens to them. The audience also gets to understand why the storyteller made them part of the narrative.

Telling stories and listening to them makes experiences real and meaningful to us. This is why storytelling is such a powerful tool in communication. It is also important for children to understand that books are a useful source of information and that good reading skills are important for success in their future lives. The books they read and the characters they get to know can become like friends.

Stories can create other worlds, evoke emotions, inspire ideas, explain history and make every day seem incredible. Stories come in a variety of forms: poetry, song, movement, pictures, plays and even jokes. The creators of the stories use various mediums such as art, drama, movement, movies and dance to share the stories with others.  

Some stories are dynamic, we hear them or experience them through a soulful performance, while others become static when we write them down or record them in some way so we can revisit them over-and-over again. 

Skills and confidence

While in school, improving basic literacy levels is a priority and storytelling can be used to quickly raise standards while developing skills, knowledge and confidence in a range of other subjects and areas.

Additionally, listening to stories helps children grow in academic learning and develop rich vocabulary. Storytelling assists learners with valuable communication life skill. With storytelling a teacher can demonstrate to their learners how grammar, and in particular, how tenses are used, including certain accents and highlights that evoke emotion and realities. 

Teachers can instill how sequencing, memory and or creative writing in a child. Teachers can also showcase how storytelling can connect the audience to underlying messages and highlight how it helps organise information through beginning, middle and end.

By telling stories, they enhance the development of listening skills, imagination, critical thinking skills and mindfulness. They also motivate learners to be naturally curious to learn, in addition to assisting children to reconnect with themselves and those around them by telling stories. 

Storytelling can further encourage cooperation between students and bring the quiet children out of their shells. It encourages participation and creativity. A good story, well told, helps children to communicate with clarity and confidence, achieve emotional tone with their audience and be more persuasive and influential. A good story also helps young audiences in executing plans towards a future vision and foster working in groups. It spreads and creates innovative ideas and activities such as drama, music, dance and poetry.

Stories inspire purposeful conversation and thinking, raise enthusiasm for reading and improves listening skills.

Meshak Warambo, is a teacher at Makini Schools

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