Just about everyone loves a story. Stories have the capacity to capture our imagination and touch our hearts and minds. A good story can inform and educate, as well as encourage and inspire.
Storytelling often enriches our life experience, learning, and view of the world. It can put us in touch with past generations. At the heart of storytelling is interaction and engagement with other people, regardless of age, race or beliefs.
Storytelling is all about sharing. Through stories, children learn about important family events, meaningful relationships, personal histories, and the adventure, fun and legacies of their own personal family. For young children especially, stories help to challenge them to think in new ways.
Most cultures have a basic need to share stories, and it's just as important for children to hear the stories of their ancestors as it is for them to relate stories of their own making to pass on to the next generation.
Stories shared and narrated by older or extended family members can give younger ones a glimpse into the customs and traditions of how life used to be in another country. Along with cultural legends and folklore, storytelling can give children a much clearer picture of how thinking styles and belief systems contribute to different lifestyles.
In the adult retelling, children listen and absorb accent, emphasis, humour and a chance to observe the storyteller first hand. The adult narrator also puts a story into sequence: date, time, place, people, what happened etc., which gives children a greater understanding of how to sort information into categories and segments, and practise how to arrange their own thinking and imagination to make a story meaningful and interesting.
Stories are also a great way to introduce, encourage and reinforce a second language. Names of objects, clothes and foods for example, can be incorporated into the story in their language of origin.
Children can be engaged and motivated through storytelling. Most children will form an opinion about whether they like or dislike a story, and in a group situation, they have opportunities to discuss their preferences and their reasons for why they think this way.
Through storytelling a child's skills in listening and talking are developed. But to be effective, the storyteller also needs a few skills in how to captivate a young audience.
Gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, costumes, music, and choice of words (including songs, poems, riddles and rhymes), all help to captivate and keep a child's attention and bring a story to life.
When children take part in regular storytelling–either through listening or narrating–they have opportunities to communicate, express themselves, and explore and play with vocabulary and language patterns.
Stories are ways for children to find, organise and use information. Memory is given a workout in recalling and retelling, and thoughts, ideas and feelings can be explored in safe ways that are supportive and fun.
Active listening encourages discovery, questioning, analysis, evaluation, understanding, confidence and respect.
Storytelling can be an effective way to encourage creativity and support children with special needs or poor language skills. Stories cross cultural divides, and can often be a bridge to communication and integration within communities.