Entertaining Young Children By Telling Them Stories
The Joys of Reading and Telling Stories to Young Children
When we talk about children’s books today the media on which they are delivered no longer consists of traditional books that are printed on paper and bound into book format.
Today we have books for children on magnetic tape cassettes, on CDs and DVDs, eBooks, websites with stories and even recordable children’s books that allow a person to record their voice as they read the book aloud for a child.
Seeing ads on television recently for recordable storybooks brought back memories of reading to and, as a child listening to, stories. A great way to interact and entertain young children is to read to them.
Reading to children at a young age is also a great way to begin to instill a love of reading in young children before they learn to read.
Sitting down and reading to a young child is both fun and a great way to develop a closer relationship between the adult and child.
However, finding the time and opportunity to sit and read to a child is often difficult.
Grandparents, aunts and uncles usually are not with the child every day and this is where things like recording themselves, on a audio cassette, CD or one of the new recordable storybooks, reading a favorite story to a child can be a substitute for not being physically with them.
Inventing and Telling Stories is a Great Way to Entertain Young Children
While reading to children, whether in person or remotely via various technologies, is great, we can also entertain and educate children by simply reciting stories to them.
Without a book and illustrations, the child has to focus on the storyteller - the tone of voice, facial and other body movements - as well as create story images in their imagination.
Storytelling is an ancient art that predates books.
The stories can be ones that the storyteller has read or heard and now recites from memory. Stories can also be new ones that the storyteller invents on the spot, or, some combination of the two.
When my children were young I read books to them, the Berenstain Bears series was popular with them and I also found these stories entertaining as I read them.
I also made a few cassette recordings of various stories for my sons.
Telling Stories While Driving is a Great Way to Entertain Children
However, it is difficult, to say nothing of dangerous, to read to a child while driving. In our mobile society we often find ourselves driving with our young children aboard.
In my case, the first 30 minutes of my daily commute to work and the last 30 minutes of my commute home, was with my two young sons taking them and picking them up from the sitter we entrusted them to during the day.
In addition to work commutes there were numerous other times, including weekend day trips and vacation trips, when I would find myself driving with them, and in some cases their young cousins or friends, in the car for an extended period.
My Father was a veteran of the Pacific Campaign in World War II and two of my great-uncles had served in Europe during World War I.
All three of them used to tell my siblings and I interesting tales of their war time experiences. This gave me an introduction to the art of storytelling.
Both Child and Parent Can Share Stories - Discussing Work With a Two Year Old While Commuting
With my older son the stories were more like a continuing conversation that frequently dealt with work.
Every day we had to drive through what passes for downtown in Tucson, where both my wife and I worked at the time, enroute to the sitter’s home on the east side of the city.
Even when he was a little over two years old my son was able to recognize and point out the buildings where each of us worked and it wasn’t long before he began pointing to the newest and tallest building in the office district as the building in which his office was located.
I would talk about things in general that I was doing at work while he would come back with tales similar to what I had described and what he had heard his mother saying, including co-workers whose names were the same as many of those my wife and I worked with.
Tucson and The Two Cities I Regularly Traveled to On Business
My Four Year Old Son Tells of His Experience Driving to the San Diego Airport
As he got older, about four, his stories got more creative especially, when my job began requiring me to fly to our corporate office in San Diego one day a week as well as periodic trips to train personnel at a new office in Grand Junction, Colorado.
As I discussed my previous day’s experiences in San Diego or Grand Junction he would share his and his six month old brother’s experiences that day in one of those two cities.
When traveling to other cities I usually left early in the morning and returned in the evening, leaving it to my wife to take and pick them up at the sitter's on those days.
However, David and his brother must have had a better travel department at their office as they always managed to get airline connections that enabled them to leave and return on their trips between the time I dropped them off in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon.
One of David’s funniest stories, which he told as if it had actually happened, involved him and his brother having flown to San Diego that day for a meeting in a new part of town.
The meeting ran late and, with the help of his brother navigating, the two of them had rush down the freeway in their rented car and almost missed their flight back to Tucson.
I still have the picture in my mind of my four year old son. who could barely see over the steering wheel of the car and whose legs couldn’t reach the floor, let alone the gas pedal, driving on the Southern California freeways during rush hour with his six month old brother sitting next to him reading a map and giving him directions.
A Tale of My Uncle's Dinner in France in World War I
However, it was with my younger son (Sith Penguin on HubPages), that I became involved in serious storytelling.
I had told both boys the story my great-uncle Willard had told, when I was a teenager, about the time he and a buddy had snuck out of camp one evening in France during World War I to go out with a couple of French girls they met while driving back from the field hospital their unit was constructing.
It was a rural area and the girls were working in the fields when my uncle had the truck he was in charge of (he was a sergeant) stop so he and his buddy, Charlie Young, could meet the girls and arrange to join them later for dinner.
I later learned that during World War I fraternization between American military personnel and local women was forbidden (the exception was the American commander, General Pershing who had both issued the order as well as disobeyed it by keeping a French mistress in Paris himself).
However, that didn’t stop my uncle and Charlie from sneaking out of camp and going to the farmhouse where the girls lived.
When they arrived at the farmhouse, with a peck basket containing bottles of beer they had purchased at a bistro down the road, they discovered the girls had left but the parents invited them in for dinner.
As they were sitting down to dinner a car drove up with their Lieutenant, a U.S. military policeman and a French policeman.
My uncle and Charlie headed for the bedroom where Charlie hid in the closet and my uncle dove under the bed. Of course, the first place the policeman looked was under the bed.
As my uncle told it the emphasis was on the prospect of dinner with the two girls (he and Charlie may have had other things on their mind, but we were teenagers so he left it at that).
For my sons and nieces, all of whom were seven or younger, I made the opportunity for a good meal, army food at that time being unpalatable institutional food, the focus.
I Put a New Spin on the Odyssey of Homer and Thrill The Children
While the children liked this story, they, especially my younger son, Victor, pushed for more stories.
So, one time when we were vacationing and visiting my sister and her family in New York State I found myself alone with the children one afternoon while the others were out.
Being asked for a new story, I thought back to the Odyssey of Homer and other classic tales I had read and proceeded to spin a yarn that, while no more faithful to the original than that of any Hollywood production, thrilled the children.
Ulysses was out, replaced by four knights who just happened to have the same names as my two sons and two nieces.
For extra humor, I included a Sancho Panza like squire with the same name as my year old nephew - the older children loved the idea of their little brother/cousin being their servant and he was away shopping with his mother and my wife and wouldn’t have understood anyway.
Squire Chrissy Saves the Day
Coming into possession of a map showing the location of sheep with Golden Fleece, the four set off on their chargers with little Squire Chrissy following on his pack mule.
The four brave knights had the great adventures fighting Cyclops, slaying dragons and battling other dangers.
Meanwhile, their little squire handled logistical details and periodically got them out of trouble as he dutifully followed them, picking up and collecting discarded soda bottles and cans along the road as they traveled.
In the end the four find the location of the sheep only to discover the field had been sold to a developer and was now a new housing development.
However, their little squire again comes forward and saves the day by producing the desired fortune.
Stopping at a grocery store, in a mythical land, like New York State, where bottles and cans come with a refundable deposit fee, and exchanges his bottle and can collection for a fortune.
The Story Was Nonsense, but the Children Loved It
While nonsense, the children loved it.
Having had me make some changes as the story was told, the four little knights then wanted to preserve the tale of their adventures by making written copies for each.
So,we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with me, on my brother-in-law’s computer (in those days running on a Microsoft DOS operating system with WordPerfect version 1 or 2) where I had to type the story as they continually suggested changes.
They then drew a treasure map and some pictures of monsters to go with the printed version.
I was able to provide them with a whole afternoon's worth of entertainment with a tale I made up as I told it.
My Son Victor & I Went on to Create Stories about a Leprechaun Named Sean
My son Victor, loved creating stories and, while he was still very young he had me regularly inventing and telling stories for him.
Many of these involved a lovable little Leprechaun we created and named Sean.
To add more spice to the stories we gave Sean a friend, a lovable, but more mischievous, leprechaun named McGillicuddy and another, equally mischievous friend, a fairy named Armagh.
Telling stories was great fun for both of my sons and me. While it only lasted for a few years while they were very young, it did provide me with good times and good memories of that period of their lives.
They seem to feel the same about that time. Even though they are now older and have moved on with their lives, it did give them an opportunity to exercise and develop their imaginations at a young age.
My Youngest, Now a College Graduate, Is Still Interested in Publishing the Stories
While my older son has never shown an interest in storytelling or writing, which is fine with me, my younger son has developed some interest in writing (he writes occasionally for HubPages).
He still talks about the two of us someday taking the stories that he had me save on the computer, polishing them and publishing them.
While I have my doubts regarding my talents with fiction, I have published, on HubPages, two short stories based upon myths surrounding St. Nicholas and one based upon the myth of the headless ghost that supposedly haunts Old Fort Niagara in New York State.
Storytelling Remains One of The Bonds Between My Younger Son and Myself
In the meantime, now that Victor has graduated from college and has some time available, he and I are investigating creating a book out of my Father’s World War II diary and the trove of letters and photographs he sent home to my Mother while fighting that war.
We are also researching a second possible book about the life of an Arizonan, Mathew Juan, who lost his life fighting in World War I.
More by this Author
A photo of a mountain taken by a soldier 50 years earlier leads family to solving mystery of his disappearance in the Pacific Theater in World War II.
A review of Marcia Brown's 1947 children's classic book Stone Soup.
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