Why Stories Are Vital To The Growth Of Children In The Twenty-First Century
Remember the good old days when life was simpler and fun; when childhood was nothing but a fantastical journey with Akbar-Birbal, Vikram-Betal, Tenali Raman, Chacha Chaudhary, etc.? Don't we miss growing up to the tales of our Dadis or Nanis and falling asleep beside them, listening to Panchatantra, Jataka and Aesop’s fables?
Stories teach us valuable lessons—lessons about different stages of life, about the good and the bad. They also shape us into the grownups that we are today. Each story originates from a myth or a personal experience, gradually transforms around campfires and inside bedrooms to evolve into beautiful fairy tales and folklore.
Unfortunately, with technology invading our sanctuary and the ever-growing nuclear family culture dominating our social set up, storytelling has nearly vanished from our children’s lives; maybe because we don't get enough time to read children a bedtime story, due to our frenetic routine.
Juggling between our personal and professional lives, we tend to forget that we're living in a society that calls for constant reinvention. For our children to thrive in a competitive world, they must learn to think outside the box—necessary for developing 21st-century skills. Therefore, it's important for every elder to give them a nurturing environment that stimulates innate curiosity, imagination, and thinking process.
Newborns, babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, teens: almost every child enjoys a juicy legend with good rhyme, rhythm and just the right amount of inspiration.
Researches say, when kids read a storybook, they:
- Learn the right way to handle books (e.g., turning pages, arranging books in a shelf, etc.)
- Develop early literacy skills (by understanding and memorising sounds, words and languages)
- Start recognising and relating pictures and sounds to letters
Stories Spark Curiosity & Imagination
When tots begin to visualise the characters, settings, and objects of a book, they grow curious. It leads them to explore facts, ask questions and find answers, both inside and outside the textbook. As they read more and more, they get better at pronouncing difficult words, build a solid vocabulary and start reading in between the lines. It ultimately develops their creativity and critical thinking, even decision-making skills, when it comes to choosing which storybook, they want to read, or what library they’re planning to visit.
It isn’t necessary for children to read a book all the time. You can sneak in a lesson or two, carefully wrapped in fiction, as songs, poems, or accounts from real life, while the little one is brushing or eating. It could be a simple shower tale about a bear who grew sick one day because it didn’t bathe properly.
It never hurts to make up a tale! When running short of ideas, sharing incidents from our childhood, or the experiences of our family members will do just fine!
When we narrate a story to children, they learn to:
- Focus and listen
- Differentiate between the imaginary and real world
- Develop excellent communication, social, organisational and reflective skills
- Understand and accept a change
- Cope with strong emotions and frightening situations
Saying rhymes, playing with imaginary friends, singing songs and reading stories are a few activities that kids enjoy more around people than alone. Narrating fables in different languages helps in raising multilingual children. Eventually, they learn to correlate different words with their syllables and meanings in multiple languages. Also, the ‘special time’ we spend with kids strengthens our relationship with them.
Telling A Tale With A Twist
Once the child fosters a love for fiction, we can plan other activities to spark their imagination.
- Tell them to close their eyes and visualise a location in their mind. Give them cues to create a story in their mind.
- After reading them a book, pause and ask them how the tale should have ended in their opinion. Their version would be more interesting to hear.
- Ask them open-ended questions related to specific characters and scenes. For instance, “Why didn’t the Beast killed the Beauty?”, “What would’ve happened had Cinderella not left her glass slippers behind?”, etc. It promotes metacognition, interpretation, and analysis.
- Pick everyday objects and encourage kids for a role-play activity. Ask them to share their theories, had they been a coin, a rose, or any other random thing.
- Assign a scenario or an imaginative topic to a child who loves to write short stories. It sharpens creative writing skills.
You’ll be surprised to know that not only little ones love such activities, but even adults enjoy them. So, go and try out storytelling games at home. It’s time to fire your imagination!