Storytelling is as old as humankind. From the time our ancient ancestors gathered around the fire sharing accounts of the woolly mammoth hunt, through to the retelling of fairy tales with children, even binge watching back-to-back episodes of our favourite TV programs, humans have used stories to pass knowledge from generation to generation, to share lessons and experiences and to emotionally connect.
Why reading and storytelling is so important for young children
Engaging young children with storytelling teaches many lessons. Not only does it promote brain development and imagination, language skills, emotions and personal relationships1, storytime together is also essential for the development of early literacy skills.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers love listening to stories and it’s a great way to familiarise them with the spoken language, especially how words and phrases sound. Storytime also encourages listening and comprehension skills. As young ones concentrate and attempt to make sense of a story (by looking at pictures and processing spoken words), they begin to understand a narrative. This is an important first step for small children — being able to describe things and events in a logical order is an essential pre-literacy skill that all children need before they learn to actually read and write2.
Scientists have also discovered that children who experience stories regularly find it easier to understand other people’s feelings. They also demonstrate greater empathy. It is thought that by hearing about characters’ feelings, observing their different ideas and reactions and also thinking about what the characters might do next, helps children to better develop ‘theory of mind’3 (ie the understanding that people don’t share the same thoughts and feelings as they do). This ability is essential for understanding and predicting other peoples thoughts and behaviours.
And, of course, it goes without saying that stories also encourage children’s imaginations by introducing them to extraordinary people and places far, far away.
But stories don’t just live in the printed word.
Traditions of storytelling go back in time, long before written books and reading were even invented. Engaging children in oral storytelling is a great activity for promoting pre-literacy skills because it supports their learning and development differently than children’s books read aloud.
One of the most magical things about oral storytelling is that the teller is not bound by words on the page. As tellers, we can delve deep into our own imaginations and invent new characters and different endings, every time we share stories with our children. And because the story is not ‘set in ink’, oral storytelling can give children a greater opportunity to use their own imaginations by contributing their own ideas to the characters and storyline, along with the chance to role play and perform.4 Sometimes young children enjoy these kinds of open-ended stories more than being read to from a picture book.
In this way, oral storytelling has much in common with so called ‘pretend play’ — an activity that involves using imagination and make-believe.
Getting involved in your child’s creative play
Research has revealed that a child’s imagination and creativity are increased when adults get involved in pretend play with children. This includes storytelling where a story is made up from scratch and involves new ideas and different endings and combinations4.
So how can you get started with your own storytelling? Tiger Tribe’s Magna Carry and Moveable Playbooks are the ideal kickoff point. By providing a range of ‘kids favourite’ themes, along with movable magnetic or silicon sticker characters and objects, parents and carers can create their own stories across subjects including, Animals, Fairies, Dinosaurs, Building Construction, Emergency Rescues, Mermaids and Magical Worlds, to name but a few. Every time you play, the story can have a different ending. Or even a different beginning!
Get inspired by watching one of our amazing storytelling sessions using our brand new Movable Playbooks - Magical World. Watch as talented children’s author and storyteller Alex Miles 'reads' Magical World.. .
About Alex Miles
Since publishing her first play at age seventeen, Melbourne-based writer Alex Miles has worked across theatre, television, advertising and children’s books. She wrote under the pen name H.I. Larry for eight books in the Zac Power series and excited young readers across the country with her children’s series, Starring Olive Black and Girl Geeks. Alex is passionate about kids (and adults) using their imaginations and is a regular presenter of her interactive writing workshop for kids called ‘Imaginative Muscle’. With two young boys, Freddy and George (who weren’t named after the Weasley twins), Alex juggles her time between motherhood, writing and presenting in schools. You can find her at byalexmiles.com.au or over on Insta @byalexmiles
de Rosnay M, Hughes C. Conversation and theory of mind: Do children talk their way to socio-cognitive understanding? British Journal of Developmental Psychology 2006;24(1):7-37.
Melisa Moore & Sandra W. Russ(2008) Follow-up of a Pretend Play Intervention: Effects on Play, Creativity, and Emotional Processes in Children, Creativity Research Journal, 20:4, 427-436, DOI:1080/10400410802391892