‘Once upon a time, there lived a poor man in a village…’ ‘Once upon a time, there was a noble king…’ ‘Once upon a time, a naughty rabbit romped merrily through a green forest…’
Once upon a time, these were the words kids heard often. It’s not as if kids no longer get to hear stories, it’s just that nowadays stories rarely form an integral part of family time. Somewhere along the way we have ventured into the world of communication via satellites and fiber optics and left behind the narrow bylanes of tales and yarns.
The joy of a good story
Have you ever seen a child listening to his or her favourite story? A rapt expression on the face, rounded eyes, mouth agape…you can see that this is engrossment of the highest level. Actually stories are more than just a narration of strings of events. They are the landscapes where imagination is let free to soar as high as it can go. A story’s words conjure up myriad images in the mind space. A good tale makes the listener think and visualize. There’s a lot of role play that goes on. Problems are posed, solutions are offered. Stories are a young soul’s window to culture, wisdom and morals. Another good thing about story telling is that a good tale told well, bonds the narrator with the listener. In fact, storytelling sessions often evolve into happy rituals for both, the teller as well as the listener. Later on these evolve into happy memories.
Choosing a story
Fortunately there’s no dearth of good stories worthy of young minds. Mythology, religion, history, fairytales, scientific discoveries, kids’ literature, family lore…there’s virtually a limitless supply of stories waiting to be told. You can take your pick from many or all of these. Once in a while you can also create your own stories from original or borrowed plots.
Telling a story
You do not have to be a great orator to tell a story to your kids. Like parenting, storytelling relies a lot on instinct, gut feeling and going with the flow. Use your imagination. Employ voice modulation, hand gestures, facial expressions. Embroider a bit, snip some loose threads. Create impromptu poems for some dialogues. Go a little madcap, have fun. And soon you will have your kids begging for more. Let your story telling be a two way street. Ask the child to repeat some dialogues. Before reaching the end part, ask the child to come up with an alternative ending. Once-in-a-while ask them to tell you stories. If you like, read out stories from a book occasionally. Or get those story books that have a lot of colorful illustrations. These kinds are liked a lot by children under the age of 6 years. Many small kids also prefer to hear their favourite stories over and over again. Indulge them. Occasionally, play the game of ‘build-a-story’. In this, all the participants of a story session create a story line bit by bit. Believe me, it can lead to absolutely rollicking times.
Things to remember
Even for something as simple as a story session, there are a few points to remember. Stories need to be told firsthand. Listening to a CD / cassette of a story, or watching an animated movie on VCD/ DVD is a great idea as an occasional family activity but none of these can replace a one-to-one oral story session. Always choose age-appropriate and positive stories with clear cut solution in the end, if not always a happy ending. Steer clear of horror, violence and vulgarity. Don’t make your stories too preachy. Your aim should be to have a cozy time in fantasy land with your kids. Lessons and learning will follow on their own.
Let’s make story telling a family ritual once more
So if your kids are deprived of the simple pleasure of storytelling, make amends. Start telling them stories. We guarantee that your family will build a treasure trove of happy memories and your children will grow up as happier, better adjusted individuals.