The Story of Storytelling

Then and Now

Storytelling (or Story Telling) is one of the oldest forms of human interaction. Oral story telling probably pre-dates written history by millennia and could be older than the images found in cave paintings. Many cultures have kept alive the tradition of oral story telling to this day.

The importance of story telling has not diminished over time, in fact it is recognized now as one of the most important influences on a child’s developmental process. Let’s think about why that is true, and how to elevate storytelling beyond children’s everyday experiences.

Storytelling and Child Development

Most children’s first experience of story telling is of their parents reading bedtime stories to them followed by their first steps in learning to read for themselves. Some children though will not have experienced story telling before attending day care or Pre-K. These children will quickly benefit from storytelling, either read from a book or imagined and spoken aloud. In all young children, storytelling will promote a readiness for school and a foundation for literacy.

The benefits of listening to stories, reading them out loud and improvized storytelling sessions are many, they include:

  • Developing cognitive and linguistic skills, including concentration and vocabulary.
  • Stimulating their imagination.
  • Introducing them to other cultures and ways of life.
  • Social skills like listening quietly, joining in discussions, asking questions, waiting in turn.
  • Empathy: identifying with the protagonist of the story.
  • Experience of other languages: many children experience other languages on a daily basis but many do not.

Day care facilities, Pre-K settings and Kindergartens recognize the importance of storytelling and incorporate it into their daily schedules. The usual way might be to get children sitting in a school room, cross-legged on the floor, in a semi-circle in front of a seated teacher. Oftentimes though it can be difficult to engage the children’s attention for long, or even keep them awake! So why not take storytelling outside into the fresh air!

Take Storytelling Outside

Think about creating a permanent story telling space outside the classroom; first think about the location:

  • Not in direct sun, unless you are going to put a shade structure over the area.
  • In an area that has some sense of enclosure, perhaps created by existing or new planting. Alternatively use something like the Schoolscapes Eye-Spy Posts (see note below).
  • A space large enough for you to install a focal point, statement piece, like this wonderful, oversize Storyteller’s Chair, from Schoolscapes, and one or more semi-circles of benches, stools or chairs.
  • Think about interspersing the permanent features with items you can bring outside with you – cushions, pillows or beanbags.
  • Provide a means of support like the Eye-Spy Posts for draping backdrops and using props – items related to the story or subject the children will interact with. These will enhance children’s enjoyment and engagement.

Interactions with Storytelling

Story telling can come in many different forms so research and plan to include a variety of these in your story telling sessions:

  • Teacher-directed: it doesn’t just have to be about the teacher reading and the children listening. Make the story interactive. Invite the children to put themselves in place of the characters and ask open questions about the interactions between the characters and how they affect the plot of the story.
  • Child-centered: Children are happy to read stories to each other, so don’t make every session a teacher-directed one.
  • Remember the different forms of storytelling: Reading from a book, recounting a well-known story from memory or perhaps improvising a story from imagined or real life experiences.
  • Singing: stories come in the form of prose, poetry and song. So don’t forget to include these activities among your sessions.
  • Mix storytelling with music. See the full range of Schoolscapes Outdoor Musical Instruments here. And the beautiful new range of Virtuoso Instruments here.

Schoolscapes is here to help

Schoolscapes was founded on the principle of ‘Learning through Play’ and creating a Storytelling Circle was one of the first design commissions we worked on – way back in 1996! Since then we have created or supplied items to create Storytelling spaces to many types of settings in many countries around the world.

If our little story has inspired you to think about creating a Storytelling Circle or Space of your own, take a look at some of these ideas and call us on 315-906-0050 to discuss your project – we love to help!

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