Once in the wintertime, when the snow was deep, crisp and white upon the ground, a poor boy was sent out into the forest to fetch wood on a sled. After he had gathered and loaded the wood, his feet and hands were frozen through. He decided to make a fire and warm himself a little before pulling the heavy sled home. He scraped the snow away, and while he was clearing the ground, he found a small golden key. “Where there is a key, there must be a lock” he though. He dug in the frozen ground and found a little iron chest. "If only the key fits, there must be things of great value in such a chest." He looked but could find no keyhole. He turned it and turned it until finally he found the keyhole, it was so small that it could scarcely be seen. He tried the key, it fitted. Then he turned it once and click….
(The Golden Key-the Grimms Bothers)
That’s where the story ends. We like to ask our audience, “What do you think is in the chest?” Some say treasure, others suggest gold. One little boy even said puppies! When we open our iron chest, we find… All those things and more, we find imagination! When my husband Ulf and I tell stories, it’s just the children, ourselves and the story, and in that intimate space, the lid of that chest flies open- and we are all co-creators and explorers of infinite imaginative story worlds.
Oral Storytelling is the Art of Imagination: As storytellers, we invite the children on a journey, and the children are not passive consumers, but fellow travellers. Storytellers communicate their imagination, the images they see and feel inside to others so they can see and feel them too.
Storytellers have a magic chest of tools to communicate stories to the children, as well as our imagination, we use words, vocal intonation, sound effects, facial expressions, gestures, body language and movement, rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Children with poor language skills or reading difficulties can still enjoy, participate and understand a story through oral storytelling, as all aspects of storytelling convey the meaning in a congruent, engaging and playful way. Oral storytelling is an enhanced sensory experience of literature for all children.
Oral Storytelling scaffolds children's language and literacy skills by providing a powerful pedagogical model that is imaginative, intimate, inclusive, expressive, creative, responsive and playful.
Regular exposure to oral storytelling has proven to:
• increase vocabulary and the use of more complex sentence structures.
• improve remembrance and comprehension skills
• Increase attention and listening spans
• encourage expressive language development
• develop children’s sense of story structure and predictive skills
• enhance language understanding with congruent vocal intonation, gestures, body movement & facial expressions
• expose children to different narrative forms
• develop children’s imaginations through active listening
• encourage and motivate reading and writing
• support children’s ability to express their own stories
• support children’s sense of belonging by valuing and incorporating their contributions to story making
Active Imaginations: Studies have shown that children who listened to storytelling had better comprehension than those children who were read to. This is because when children are read stories and shown pictures, they can be passive consumers, however, when listening to a storyteller they become active as they must exercise their imaginations to create inner pictures that the storyteller communicates through their words and para-linguistic cues. Children’s remembrance of the stories was enhanced too. We’ve experienced firsthand many young children able to remember folktales almost word for word after only one or two storytellings.
Heart to Heart: Another reason for the better comprehension and remembrance is the social context, that is the personal and intimate connection created between the teller and the listener. Oral storytelling provides an experience which is immediate and personal. Free from the text, the storyteller meets the listener eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart and imagination to imagination. When we tell stories, we are free to respond to the needs of the listeners, we can slow the story down and expand it in places where the audience interest is great, we can liven it up or calm it down and we can add participation.
Eager Explorers: We invite, encourage and support the children to participate in and contribute to the storytelling, the child becomes a co-creator and co-imaginator of their storytelling experience. In this imaginative space, the children’s contribution is valued and incorporated, there are no wrong suggestions just wonderfully wild story tangents shooting off into new territories. As their contributions are encouraged, valued and incorporated in the imaginative safe story space, the children’s sense of belonging is enhanced. The child becomes a keen explorer, eager to discover and express their own stories.
At our regular storytelling gigs, we have enthusiastic young storytellers jumping up and down to take over the show and tell their stories. We believe their enthusiastic response is testament to the powerful model, oral storytelling and the art of imagination provides for children’s language and literacy development.
All that in one small chest; Imagine That!
"Imagine That" was part of a presentation I gave at The Gold Coast Libraries "Early Childhood Literacy and Language Forum" September 2019
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.