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Apr 9, 2020

The importance of Storytelling specialists

for children

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Where we started

Many people say that the creation of Storytelling was the result of effort from early humans to mould a society, culture and civilisation. However, I propose that this was not a conscious effort but instead a deep rooted and basic need. Man had just started to look up at the stars and across the horizon to ask questions. As it still does for people today, questions surrounding the meaning of life, why we are all here and what the future holds, would have plagued early man. To solve these challenging questions or puzzles, man is known to look first at patterns surrounding them. 


In The Art of Immersion, Frank Rose says ‘just as the brain detects patterns in the visual forms of nature – a face, a figure, a flower – and in sound, so too it detects patterns in information. Stories are recognisable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning.’[1] 


These stories act as sonar pulses within the vast open ocean. Each person may find a different signal and so choose to pass on different stories, thus creating hubs of like minded people. A prime example of this being The Bible, whose stories have served as a moral compass for generations throughout human history. We use the David & Goliath story to teach courage and bravery. All humans are trying to make sense of the world and each person uses a different story to achieve this.

Growing up

If you have something you need to explain to a child but unsure of how to make them understand, there will be countless stories to explain that lesson. The time we are most likely to need stories for this purpose is in our childhood, when we are experiencing new things everyday and working out the world. The classic fables are clear examples of finding new ways to provide a moral or socially important story. Uniquely, fables often use animals as the main characters with anthropomorphic characteristics, such as the ability to speak and to reason.

Parables also help adults carefully find the words for concepts such as adoption, bereavement or family break ups - which can be hard for us all to grapple with. Support with these difficult subjects in childhood is important as Joe Maliango PH.D says in Psychology Today ‘social-emotional skills help children to persist on challenging tasks, to effectively seek help when they need it and to be thoughtful in their actions’. [2] Developing those social-emotional skills is linked to how ‘academically and professionally skilled we are later in life.’ [2]

Creativity

It’s not just these key developmental skills that we gain from taking in stories at a young age. We are also encouraged to be creative and express ourselves without censorship. Elenor Duckworth said ‘the more we help children have their wonderful ideas and to feel good about themselves for having them, the more likely it is that they will someday happen upon wonderful ideas that no one else has happened upon before.’ [3]  


These characteristics might get a little dusty as we grow into an adult, put down our fingerpainting and dressing up box but it’s not abandoned all together. It may manifest itself in self-respect, confidence in our work and problem solving when we hit obstacles. This may be hard to remember when you come home and the kids have turned your lounge into a den and have used every clothes peg in the house... but some of the best inventions and creations were made while ‘messing around’. A prime example of children’s accidents making an impact is the invention of the first Popsicle, which was created in 1905 by an 11-year-old named Frank Epperson. 


‘After a long day of play Frank went inside, but left his cup of soda with the stirring stick still in it out on the porch. The night got very cold, and when Frank went outside the next morning he found his drink frozen like an icicle. Whoa!’ [4] 

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Escapism

To keep our vulnerable safe we often give our small children quite a limited environment. Bed, bath and park is pretty standard but what about a trip to the bottom of the sea, or dinner inside a volcanic mountain?

 

Through storytelling children have the opportunity to escape to far away places, meet extraordinary people in new situations. Books are a great source of inspiration for children and can hold the secret to expanding children’s minds. Although we know that man’s stories survived as spoken word before the written word was invented.

To conclude

I’m not about to say that all children are mini thespians waiting to tread the boards. However, through creative storytelling, be that through film, theatre, dance or song, children can be nurtured to freely express their ambitions and opinions of the world. They can then grow up to talk with authority about their work and ideas and have the imaginative skills to challenge the norm, think outside the box and push scientific boundaries. After all, Bill Plait said ‘without imagination, science would be a dictionary’[5].

 

Ella Rides, Founder of Now in a Minute Theatre

https://www.nowinaminute.org.uk

 

 

 

Photos by Senjuti Kundu, Ben White and Nong Vang on Unsplash

Bibliography

1- https://www.wired.com/2011/03/why-do-we-tell-stories/

2- Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015

3- Trodd Lyn, 2016, The Early Years Handbook for Students and Practitioners: An essential guide for the foundation degree and levels 4 and 5, England.

4 - https://www.popsicle.com/our-story

5- https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/science-is-imagination

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