In a previous life, I worked for a very well-known baby retailer. As part of my training there I was lucky enough to undertake a 2-day course in child development at the famed Norland College (which is where all the best nannies in the UK train). Norland is in the heart of Bath, and reminded me a lot of the early 20th Century Mary Poppins era — not least because of the beautiful old-fashioned pram on display in the hallway.
Part of the course was centred around play — and more specifically the importance of play in terms of a child’s development. Of the two days of lectures, workshops and course work, one thing in particular has stayed with me since. And that is the importance of words, language and storytelling.
And this shocking statistic is not limited to the USA — similar findings have been reported in the UK.
This means that children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are being exposed to far fewer words on average than their peers, end up lacking in vocabulary — which often results in difficulties reading. And with a difficulty in reading comes the beginning of a vicious circle in that it becomes more difficult to pick up new words and expand your vocabulary. Words, language and ultimately storytelling are key to unlocking the eventual ability to read, and the subsequent ability to learn. Which is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.
But the benefits of storytelling to our children go way beyond the literacy argument.
Storytelling also broadens the imagination, and can even help children make sense of things going on within their lives that they haven’t been able to deal with previously. Scientific studies also suggest that storytelling can also help a child develop socials skills such as the ability to empathise with others (presumably by having put them into someone else’s shoes through the medium of a story).
Telling or listening to stories with our children also allows us to interact with them outside the confines of “real life”. We can ask them about the language — did they understand that word? But we can also question them about the story itself — why do they think the character did that? And this facilitates learning on a whole new level.
And the beauty of all this is, there are now so many ways to engage your child in storytelling. Whether it is through the traditional reading of a bedtime story; making up a story as part of a game you are playing; retelling events that might have happened over the course of the day; or the numerous story apps available in the market place.
And now, there is also Yoto… a brilliant mix of storytelling through audio and visual stimulation. Yoto is so simple to use that it empowers your child to take control over the stories they listen to. It is next level storytelling. Storytelling amplified.