Children in the first Plane of Development are in the Sensitive Period for language, and it is our responsibility to prepare an environment rich in language. One way to do this is to tell stories to the children. “Storytelling is relating a tale to one or more listeners through voice and gesture. It is not the same as reading a story aloud or reciting a piece from memory or acting out a drama-though it shares common characteristics with these arts. The storyteller looks into the eyes of the audience and together they compose the tale.
The storyteller begins to see and re-create, through voice and gesture, a series of mental images; the audience, from the first moment of listening, squints, stares, smiles, leans forward or falls asleep, letting the teller know whether to slow down, speed up, elaborate, or just finish. Each listener, as well as each teller, actually composes a unique set of story images derived from meanings associated with words, gestures, and sounds. The experience can be profound, exercising the thinking and touching emotions of both teller and listener. ” (The National Council of Teachers of English, quote from www. toryteller. net) This is something that should be started on the first day the children walk through the door of the classroom (Fernando, 1999). Storytelling has been a part of life for a very long time. Stories tell us about the nature of the human life and give shape to the events and emotions which are encountered in daily life. From the earliest of times, stories were the way of passing down the history of the land and people who lived there. The spoken word came before the written word, and it is through the spoken word that the history of people is passed on from one generation to the next.
This spoken word has helped to preserve the history, knowledge and culture of humans over the centuries and still plays a role (Fernando, 1999). These stories speak to the spirit and mind of people everywhere. They are central to the teachings of every culture and are a natural part of learning. By hearing a tale of someone in a similar situation, we are able to make decisions based on their wise or unwise choices. Family stories help the child feel connected to and a part of the family. Stories are a way of creating a bond between people and help to weave a web of familiarity and understanding.
Telling stories not only helps the child identify with those before, but by listening to stories, the child builds up his or her memory, imagination, and concentration. Stories present language as an art form. The tone and resonance of the voice captures the child’s imagination and helps to paint a picture in his or her mind. The voice becomes an instrument through which a type of musical composition is passed on to the child. It is the “voice” that penetrates deep within the child and gives understanding and can bring healing to a wounded spirit (Grant-Miller, 2006). What types of stories should be told?
Stories which illustrate life are a good place to start. Telling the children about ‘How a Tadpole becomes a Frog’ or “some tales of work in the garden”are two good examples of stories (Creative Development in the Child vol. 1, p. 192). It is important at this stage in development to keep the stories true to life. It is confusing for the child if the stories being told to them deal with make-believe creatures or animals who act like people. At this stage, it is important to help the child come to grips with reality and focus on things which are real (Fernando, 1999).
When telling stories, one needs to keep in mind a couple of things. First, children have a particular ability to take into consideration all the people around him or her (Creative Development in the Child vol. 1, p. 192). Secondly, children desire to hear the same story repeated over and over. This desire for repetition asks the storyteller to remember the details as when the story was first presented. It also asks the storyteller to tell stories which they themselves enjoy (Fernando, 1999). Daily life provides us with a wealth of topics for stories.
Children love to hear about real events that happen in the lives of those whom they are bonded with. Family memories help connect the generations to one another. They also give small children a sense of time; of what was there before and what will be there after. It is not only beneficial to those who are listening to the story, but also to the storyteller. For those who are telling the stories, it helps form bridges with the other adults who are listening, especially if some are their own adult children. Hearing stories from our parents help us understand the family traits, expressions, habits, and family values.
Stories connect us to each other (Grant-Miller, 2006) Telling stories from ones life has a therapeutic healing value for both the teller and the listener and gives both a sense of belonging. Stories go deep inside us and touch our hearts. Storytelling does many things for the child, it gives language, helps connect the generations and gives a sense of belonging (Grant-Miller, 2006). “If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. ” —Barry Lopez (as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)