Friday, July 24, 2009

Cultivating a Storyteller

Children can be great storytellers
"By the age of four most children can tell complex stories. You would be surprised to learn, however, that the beginnings of storytelling can start much earlier. As early as age two, children begin to tell stories as a way to organize their experiences, hold on to their memories and understand their culture" (Storytelling, Story Acting, and Writing: Essential Language Experience for All Children from Many Paths to Literacy: Language, Literature, and Learning in the Primary Classroom by Rebecca Novick;

Adults support children's growing storytelling abilities through everyday conversations about past and future events. Using photographs or pictures from magazines can serve as story starters. Very young children enjoy hearing and participating in stories related to everyday events. Creating stories that involve movement will also keep a young child's interest. Preschool-age children will be interested in using their imaginations to tell stories about animals, friendships, and stories about daily events. "Being a hero in the story affirms a child's abilities and creates a sense of adventure," says our volunteer storyteller, Joanne Chase.

Story blocks
Here's a unique storytelling opportunity you can enjoy at the Museum. Story blocks are part of the storytelling experience in the Family Resource Center on Wednesday and Friday mornings. For each story, two to four children are asked to choose a block. Each of the blocks has a familiar picture that children might recognize, such as types of transportation, animals, vegetables, ice cream, etc. Our storyteller uses suggestions for the story from the children who chose the blocks. For instance, Joanne suggests having the children name the animals or describe what the animals can do. This keeps the child involved in creating the story.

Some of our visitors have mentioned wanting to create story blocks to use at home. We purchased unfinished 2.5 inch hardwood blocks online at Wood and Shop Inc. First we rounded the corners with an electric sander. Then we developed a list of pictures that children might recognize. You can use stencils or draw and paint familiar subjects such as animals, favorite foods and things found in nature. The blocks were then coated with a clear wood veneer finish. Joanne has made a set of blocks for each one of her 5 grandchildren. "They have become quite a family tradition," she says. They are sure to last for future generations.

Start a family tradition by visiting the Family Resource Center on Wednesday or Friday mornings for story telling with these creative story blocks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Enjoy A Good Story with Your Child!

We all know that reading or telling stories is an essential learning opportunity for children. All humans share the universal activity of reading or telling stories. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends making reading and storytelling a part of your family's activities. Not only is reading good for brain development, but it also promotes a strong emotional relationship between you and your child. Sharing and creating a common experience through storytelling aids in the development of a child’s ability to interpret events beyond his immediate experience.

Some benefits of reading and telling stories follows:
  • Develops a child’s listening skills

  • Introduces a child to language patterns

  • Develops a positive attitude on the part of the child for books and reading

  • Contributes to the social and cognitive development through shared experiences

  • Develops imagination

  • Entertains and amuses

  • Aids in the development of an ethical value system

Story reading and Storytelling Drop-ins
Related topical books are available in every neighborhood in the Museum. For example, your child may enjoy reading a book about using tools while waiting in line at the Construction House.
    Come join us for Imagination Hour in the Family Resource Center on Monday mornings for reading stories and wearing silly hats.

    Oral storytelling comes alive on Wednesday and Friday mornings in the Family Resource Center with the use of story blocks, puppets and musical instruments (Wednesday mornings only).

    Play at Home
    Read to your child often. Be as lively and animated as you can. Read slowly and with lots of eye contact. Use storytelling to share a life experience from your life or your child’s younger years. Children love to hear stories about people who are near and dear to their hearts. These stories become part of your family history. Make up stories with your child about their favorite stuffed animals or dolls. Use the “story to be continued” method, extending the story during prescribed times such as bedtime, waiting for appointments, car rides, etc. Make up “echo” stories where you provide a line or two and the children echo back words, motions or sounds during prescribed times of the story.

    Stay Tuned
    In our next post we'll tell you how our story blocks are made and suggest some hints for cultivating your child's storytelling abilities! Have you visited our Museum during one of our story drop-ins? We'd love to hear from you. We'll share the story of your visit in a future post. Leave a comment on our blog or drop me a note at