Aesop's famous fable tells the story of a tortoise who, ridiculed by the hare for being slow, challenges it to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway. Upon awakening, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him.
The above story is familiar to all of us. We have heard it in many versions, sometimes as kids, sometimes as adults. Parenthood is possibly the most blissful of all experiences one has during a lifetime. There are not enough words to explain the feeling of a mother when she delivers her baby or of a father who embraces his offspring for the first time. This is also the beginning of a new chapter in a couple’s life, as their whole life instantly starts revolving around the newest member.
It is no less than a challenge to ensure that the little ones acquire the desired values and intelligence as they grow up. For this purpose, one of the best companions of parents has always been storytelling. Sharing stories with young children supports their development in a number of ways. Memory, language development and imagination are strengthened, as well as their sense of self and belonging, when family stories are shared with them. Exploring stories can help children begin to understand the difference between real life and make-believe. For some children with active imaginations, it’s important to monitor their reactions to stories. Some will love to hear the ‘scary voice’ of one of the characters while others who get frightened more easily may not enjoy it as much.
It’s important to go very gently and make sure story time remains an enjoyable time. Stories involving ‘monsters’ may result in night-time fears or upsets. Rhymes, on the other hand, in books or shared orally, are very appealing to toddlers. Combining rhymes with actions is very popular with this stage. Some stories are designed specifically to help children cope with certain situations. These include stories about going to the doctor’s or to the hospital, or talking about toilet training. It can be a good way to introduce some sensitive topics through an enjoyable activity. Topics tailored to the child, their family and their particular situation can be woven into stories especially personalized for them.
In children, storytelling provides many psychological and educational benefits, such as enhanced imagination to help visualize spoken words, improved vocabulary, and more refined communication skills. However, the brain mechanisms underlying the effects of storytelling on children are not clear. In a study done by Fukushima Medical University, it was observed that there was a significant decrease of the blood flow in the bilateral prefrontal areas during picture-book reading when the subjects were familiarized in comparison to the cases of the subject naïve to the stories with the help of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). However, no
significant differences in the blood flow were found during storytelling between the subjects naïve and familiarized to the stories. The results indicated more sustained brain activation to storytelling in comparison with picture-book reading, suggesting possible advantages of storytelling as a psychological and educational medium in children.
Cognitive development refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and gains an understanding of his or her world through the interaction of genetic and learned factors. Storytelling also helps in optimal Cognitive Development. Cognitive development includes information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory which can be enhanced through storytelling.
Reading and listening to stories from different angles helps the child to develop a better understanding of their environment and the people around them.
Storytelling is not only a means of entertainment but also a means of passing on family traditions and cultural history through generations. It can also help your child to explore their interest area. Not only this, there is another takeaway of storytelling! Your child might get into the habit of reading books.
Sharing stories, talking and singing every day helps your child’s development in many ways.
Reading and sharing stories can:
help your child get to know sounds, words and language, and develop early literacy skills
learn to value books and stories
spark your child’s imagination and stimulate curiosity
help develop your child’s brain, ability to focus, concentration, social skills and communication skills
help your child learn the difference between ‘real’ and ‘make-believe’
help your child understand new or frightening events, and the strong emotions that come with them
help your child learn about the world, their own culture and other cultures.
Sharing stories with your child doesn’t mean you have to read from the book.
Just by looking at books with your child and talking about them, you can be a great storyteller and a good model for using language and books. Your child will learn by watching you hold a book the right way and seeing how you move through the book by gently turning the pages. Reading stories with children has benefits for grown-ups too. The special time you spend reading together promotes bonding and helps to build your relationship with your child.When you make time to talk and listen with your child, they learn that what they think and say is important to you. This makes your relationship stronger and builds your child’s self-esteem and confidence.