Importance of #storytelling for #children

We have grown up on stories narrated to us by our grandparents, parents and other elders in the family.

200318073-001They were the good old days when we would lie beside our aajis and azoba, daadis or naanis, as they took us on fantasy journeys with their tales — the wit of Birbal, the righteousness of the Pandavas, the stories of Vikram and Betaal et al. Those were the stories that helped us learn some important lessons of our lives. They taught us about the good and bad and also had a hand in making us the people we are as grown ups. However, now, with technology invading our lives like never before, nuclear families and working parents overpowering the social set up, the art of story-telling has become rare. Here are some of the advantages of storytelling…

Introduces new vocabulary to children: A big advantage of storytelling is that listening to stories enhances a child’s vocabulary, feel some parents. Namrata Popat, mother of a six-year-old, says, “My son is very fond of listening to stories and so, whenever I have time, I read out stories to him. The fact that he is curious about some words and wants to know the meanings of the ones he cannot understand, makes me feel good. I know he is learning new words and always find it easy to explain their meanings if it is in the context of a story being narrated.” Since the child relates to the words better, they are retained in his memory for long.

Enhances listening skills of children: Studies have proved that infancy is the period when children absorb most of the words that they later use in their lives. So, telling stories even to infants should be an important part of a parent’s schedule. When they grow up, storytelling encourages and enhances the listening skills of children. Usually, children like to talk more rather than listen and this behaviour is evident especially in classrooms — they are not usually good listeners. But when a habit of listening to stories is inculcated in them, they learn to become better listeners. It provides them the necessary training to listen and understand more, instead of talking.

Stories on laptop vs stories narrated by elders: The art of story telling has suffered a hit after the visual effect provided by technology has found takers. It has, to a certain extent, become a bane for the art of story-telling. Deepa K, an education consultant, says, “Storytelling is an interactive activity but on digital mediums it becomes a one-way thing where someone is telling you what to think and showing you an image that they think is appropriate. Thanks to this, your brain becomes a dumping ground because you stop using your imagination and your thinking powers by relying only on what is being spoon-fed to you.” She states that digital story telling is less humane. Talking about how the art of story telling has changed over the years, Deepa explains, “Many parents feel that showing stories on the Internet is as good as narrating them, but storytelling is about interacting with another human being and using one’s imagination to visualise.”

It is about being in touch with cultural roots: For Nalini Patil, a full-time mother of two kids, storytelling is about being in touch with one’s cultural roots. “My children go to English-medium schools but thanks to my regular storytelling, they know traditional Marathi tales as well. I feel this not only makes them aware of their rich cultural heritage, but also develops in them a love for learning our history. They have also become well-versed in their mother-tongue. Of course, for kids to be interested in listening to tales, the stories also need to evolve with time. “Stories shouldn’t be just about morals; they need to be thought provoking,” she adds.

Storytelling is a great activity of learning: Storytelling is very interactive. As a story progresses and develops, children ask questions. This is a great learning activity. Storytellers should use ways to make a child curious and encourage them to ask questions because this makes the child think. They learn to associate images in the book with the story and this develops their visualisation capacity and imagination. “A child’s memory capacity is enhanced when he/ she is asked to remember something from a story. I ask my five-year-old questions from stories I have told earlier. It is like a game to her, rather than a test,” states Niranjan Jha, a human resource personnel from Vasant Vihar. Experts who work with children say that parents should encourage children to sometimes create a small story with the characters they have been told about. This encourages imagination and makes the child more interested in the stories being told.

Storytelling can encourage development of emotions and feelings in a child: The media-soaked environment of today is what greets children as soon as they come into the world. Numerous TV channels, internet, mobile phones — all vie for their attention and the kids often get hooked. These fast-paced visual media block their mental development. Sunanda Shinde, mother to a school-going child says, “I have seen that telling stories makes children more involved than watching TV. Emotions are real when a child is listening to stories because his thinking capacity is enhanced. The interactive session encourages his imagination.”

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