5 ways to inspire your little storyteller
A guest post by Jason Berek-Lewis :: @jasonbereklewis
I love stories. I love telling them, reading them, watching them and the more fantastic they are, the better. Yes, I am one of those late 1970s/ early 1980s geek kids who’s grown up on Star Wars, comic books and cartoons and… well, I haven’t really grown up at all! My long-suffering wife has done her best to beat it out of me, but when our son was born in late 2007, I had the chance to become a story geek all over again.
Imagination is one of the most precious gifts of childhood and, very sadly, as we grow up society and education does its best to beat it out of us. I am determined to inspire and teach my kids not only to love stories, but to learn how to create them too. Storytelling is the most important skill we have and you don’t have to be a prize winning author to inspire a love of listening to, reading and creating stories in your kids.
1. Read, Duh!
We started reading to Sam, our first child, at a young age: probably around eight or nine months. He loved it. In the beginning the stories and books were simple, but we are getting more advanced as he gets older. Sam turned three at the end of last year.
These days he watches cartoons, movies and TV shows, but we always make room for reading in his day: usually just before he goes to bed. Sam has his favourite books that we read over and over, from Sam The Chef, to Mr McGee and the Big Bag of Bread, to Lost and Found (one of my favourite ever picture books. It’s by Oliver Jeffers and you should check it out). Reading the same books can get a bit boring for me, but it helps him to learn words, to learn story structure (he recites most of the books by heart now) and to improve his speech (he has a slight stutter). Reading together helps kids to learn to love books!
2. Play games.
Whether it’s Lego, playing with a Thomas The Tank Engine train set or playing Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? in the cubby house out the back, we often play games that revolve around stories. We always encourage Sam to lead the story: to decide when the wolf knocks on the door, to play the wolf or to play the pig… By immersing ourselves in the game and responding to Sam’s story he is learning how to turn our average suburban backyard into the location of some funny and/ or scary (but not too scary) fairytales.
3. What amazing thing happened today?
One of the first things I do when I return home from work is ask Sam “What did you do today?”. What follows is usually a story about his best friend Aidi or a tale of adventure set in the local park. By asking questions, I am helping Sam to develop his memory (recalling what he did during the day) and giving him a fun way to share his day. Of course, like many kids he exaggerates the day’s adventures and I always respond with awe writ across my face: he eats it up!
4. A picture really is worth 1000 words
I love watching kids draw: their lack of inhibition, their raw creativity, their budding imagination magically blossoms in multi colour on the paper in front of you. But, handing a piece of butcher’s paper to your child and asking them to draw something is only the first step! Once the drawing is done, I encourage Sam to tell me what his artwork is about, merging his artistic skills with words and coloured pencils into an amazing stream of creativity.
5. The power of story is inside you.
Growing up, getting a job, becoming a parent, being responsible… it happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of the story. You can live happily ever after because the best way to encourage your kids to read, write, tell and create stories is to do the same thing yourself! Tell stories to your friends, workmates, your dog and your kids… Make them zany, funny, elaborate, fantastical and have a laugh doing so. Maybe it’s been years since you last read The Cat In The Hat, watched The Goonies or checked out a cartoon (besides The Simpsons or Family Guy). Immersing yourself in story is a great way to have fun. Most importantly, it’s a fantastic way to live happily ever after with your kids.
How do YOU encourage the storyteller in your kids?