**This is a guest post, written by Jenny Holt.
The benefits of storytelling are distinct from story-reading. Drexel University’s Professor Denise. E. Agosto, has studied this in depth, and found that story sequencing, critical thinking, visualization, and cognitive engagement were all employed by children taking part in a storytelling session. Sharpening these four key areas of literacy development is crucial for young people. These skills help develop not only literacy skills, but also skills that extend to broader areas of their learning, sparking a natural curiosity and a lifelong love of learning. Clearly, a less formal storytelling setting whether direct from the memory of a storyteller, or listening to audiobooks is as important as reading print texts. For example, telling stories around a campfire may be an old tradition from a non-digital age, but it can play a vital role in current learning development, as well as being great fun for everyone involved.
The Value Of Curiosity
Children are naturally curious, but as they enter a world of systems and boundaries, this curiosity can be smothered. Sadly the cause is often the very thing we’d like to interest them in: their education. The best learning is driven by excitement; by learners with a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity about how and why the world works - questioning and challenging themselves. It stands to reason then, that the best way to encourage children to drive their own learning and sharpen vital skills is to nurture excitement and curiosity. And what better way to do that than through stories? By developing early literacy skills, and engaging children in plots and characters that require answers, we can arm them with the critical skills and curiosity they need to get the most out of their education.
The Perks Of A Relaxed Environment
Traditional classroom environments work well for some students, and it is those students who benefit most within the education system. Opportunities for literacy development, and subsequently accessing the curriculum at large, are greater for students who flourish in these environments. However, the power of a less formal storytelling setting is that it enables children who may struggle in a rigid educational environment to hone their literacy skills without even realizing they’re doing it. For example, camping trips in which children are encouraged to tell spooky stories, tales of magic and fantasy, or indeed whatever genre piques their interest - and listen to others do the same - flexes the literacy muscles as they visualize the stories unfolding around the campfire and sequence the events to spin the tale. With no written text, there is no anxiety about spelling, grammar, or handwriting. No desks mean there’s no need to sit still and concentrate quietly. Passion and creativity can be encouraged, expanding a child’s potential for development.
On the surface, this appears to focus on literacy skills, the curiosity nurtured by storytelling teaches them to question, and challenges them to think critically about whatever lies in front of them. That critical thinking can be applied to decoding a difficult narrative, solving a math problem, or proposing a scientific hypothesis. Embedding these skills early on arms students with essential life learning skills, as well as the foundation to truly benefit from what their education has to offer.
The Power Of Fire
A burning fire has been found to encourage storytelling over reality-based conversation, and so provides the perfect setting to stimulate a storytelling situation. Taking children out of their usual environment on a camping trip is a great way to develop their literacy skills by stealth. The excitement of cooking outdoors, pitching tents, and exploring a new area develops practical skills, and allows for bonding experiences within the group before evening falls and they can finally settle around the campfire to tell stories. With the focus on the experience and the love of the story, literacy skills like comprehension and sequencing are developed without children feeling the pressure of formal learning. Furthermore, the unfamiliar outdoor environment encourages children to explore, question, and challenge their perceptions - all of which feed into the storytelling itself, as well as fostering the curiosity they rely on to excel in their learning.
Formal education is important, but developing literacy and lifelong learning skills can happen in much broader settings, and nurturing a love of stories can encourage children to seek out books and audiobooks of their own volition, further fueling the fire of their education.