Category Archives: When to tell stories

The Importance of Story Time Effectiveness

The Importance of Story Time Effectiveness

Parents bring children to story time sessions at libraries for many reasons, just as teachers have many different lessons to teach their class through stories and it is absolutely the responsibility of the storyteller or educator to to get the most out of a story through reading or telling techniques.

I argue this point with my business clients as well as friends, family and even people I don’t really know:

It is not up to the listener to understand the communication – it is up to the communicator to do so in a way that is understood

In more than one book I have read the definition of effective communication as “The response you receive from the other person as a result of your communication.”

So, how do we make sure that our story time is effective?

Choice of story, sufficient preparation, and enthusiasm make for a great story time for all participants.

Reading stories introduces a plethora of ideas to a child.  Also, emotions and thoughts can be (remember that this is entirely at the control of the storyteller) conveyed in easy to understand concepts that helps provide amusement, fascination and fun.

Simply put, telling stories offers a stimulus to a child’s imagination that no other medium can provide.

Making storytelling effective is no mean feat and children are the most vulnerable and least forgiving of poor story telling performance

Let Their Imagination Run Wild!

Imagination must be encouraged to help a child develop into their own person.

Without imagination a child is bound by an environment consisting of only what he can see, hear and touch! This concept sends shudders down my spine at the thought: I imagine it would be much like the experience of those who have been lobotomised.

Telling stories gives a child a chance to unlock a world which has never been seen before, where just about anything is possible.

Imagination enables a child to see vast landscapes, take part in adventures, share people’s life stories and develop a sense of compassion and understanding about the ways in which different people and cultures live.

The best way to provide stimulus for the imagination is to prepare an effective story time and this is accomplished by knowing when to read or tell, knowing your audience and story, using your voice correctly and engaging with the listeners.

When choosing to read or tell there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Personal stories are always a favourite to children and would work well told.
  •  Books that use long, descriptive sentences to tell their stories may not be the best choice for telling simply because remembering would be difficult and much of the story may get lost in the teller’s interpretation. Not to say that it can’t be done, however there is no denying the beauty and poetry of the written word and how it can not only enrich a child’s vocabulary but can train the ear to respond to the rhythm of words.
  • Telling stories should be less complicated with a plot and setting that are easy to comprehend for the listener.
  • Short sentences with a familiar vocabulary should be the focus when telling a story as it makes it easier to understand.

Knowing your audience is also key to story choice.

The story choice should be personal to the reader, something the reader can get behind and enjoy telling just as much as the listener enjoys hearing.

However, the age groups of the audience will influence the choice as well.

  • Preschoolers will have more of a limited vocabulary while school aged children’s knowledge base will be broader and their experience base will be richer.
  • Preschoolers may enjoy shorter stories because keeping their attention can sometimes be a challenge.
  • Suspenseful stories seem to work well for all aged groups because of their ability to grasp attention and hold it.

The voice can also be an effective tool during a story time.  Knowing how to change your voice to capture emotion and rhythm can take practice.  Knowing your story well will help train the voice to react a certain way when trying to convey different feelings or characters.

However knowing your characters well and the story well will prepare the reader to project the most enthusiasm about the story to the listeners while making it easier to comprehend.

Most importantly, engaging with the audience and treating them as equals will encourage their participation in the story time session.

Each child will take from the session what they are ready to on an individual developmental level, making it fun and entertaining for all is up to the educator.

Happy Storytelling!

When is bedtime not bedtime and how to create an easy bedtime routine for your kids

Learning the difference between bedtime and sleep time and giving a child some autonomy

Why does a bedtime story have to lead immediately to lights out and the inevitable “but I’m not tiiiirrrred!!!” from your son or daughter?

How many times did I battle with my daughter and how many stories do I hear about other parents struggling to get their kids into bed for their designated bedtime!

Don’t these kids know that we are looking forward to a (small) glass of wine and some adult time?

Why can’t they understand that day after day, when we say “it’s 7 O’clock, bedtime” that we’re trying to give them some consistency!

After all, we are told that consistency and bedtime routine (although I don’t necessarily agree with it all) is crucial to our children’s development!

Get kids to bed with ease and without fuss by disociating bedtime and sleep time and giving a child the opportunity to choose when to sleep

I’ve written before about bedtime routines and bedtime stories and something that I’ve been having with great success with as far as reducing bedtime frustration and argument is concerned, is removing my idea that bedtime must mean sleep time.

The dawning reality of an easy bedtime routine

I realised some time ago that my daughter’s bedtime is also daddy’s evening-time. I get to sit in peace and read my book or watch a film (or write content about children, stories and parenting for this very website). But my daughter often isn’t tired and from spring though to autumn; it isn’t even dark outside at 7pm.

Looking back on it I’m not sure why it took me so long to work this out, but it dawned on me just to tell my daughter that it was Daddy’s evening time.

Adult time

I told her that she could do what she liked as long as it was in her bedroom and she didn’t disturb us adults.

It was a bit of a gamble, but I like (at least attempting) to treat my daughter as an adult as often as possible, so I explained exactly what I was doing and why.

I explained that I understood that she was probably not that tired and wanted to stay up and play some more. I also explained that I needed some time for me too so that I could do the things I wanted to do.

She said that was fine and I left her to her toys in her room and went off to have dinner.

I had assumed that it wouldn’t work the first time and that, having a new routine and all, she’d be in and out and demanding things of me. I was mostly wrong!

The first night, she stayed awake playing until 9.30 and I had to go in and suggest that it might be time to sleep otherwise she’d be grumpy and tired in the morning and wouldn’t enjoy swimming.

She actually agreed! And went off to sleep pretty quickly.

The next night I could hear her playing at 8.30 but by 9 she was asleep.

Ever since then we’ve had a (mostly) really easy time of it at bedtime! We bath, brush teeth and have 15 minutes of quite time on the sofa before she chooses a couple of books to read in bed.

Once the books are read, she knows that she’s allowed to get back out of bed if she likes and play with her toys as long as it’s not too noisy or disrupting to whatever we’re doing in the living room.

Why does separating sleep time and bedtime work?

One of the best things about this bedtime routine is that, for me, it also ticks several other learning/teaching points :

  • I get to give her direction – She is told that it is bedtime and I set the expectation that she’ll go to sleep. I still control the end result but…
  • I also get give her control over her own destiny – She can choose when she goes to sleep.
Daniel Pink's amazing book 'Drive'. Learn about how to get the best out of and for people.

Autonomy and Direction. Two key ingredients in generating motivation and I can’t recommend Daniel H Pink’s book “Drive” enough if you want to learn about how to motivate people (children or adults). It’s aimed at adults and the world of business, but the principles can (and should) be applied to everyone at any age. This book really has changed how I approach the world.

Anyway, I digress (though I couldn’t write an article on Kidmunication without at least 1 reference to a book!).

The end result is that my daughter no makes no fuss when it’s bedtime in my house (although trying to get her willingly brushing her teeth is another matter). We have an agreement.

“Ah yes, but I bet she’s up ‘til late every night!” I hear you say. Well I can assure you that, now that she’s used to it (and it did take a couple of weeks if I’m honest), sometime she really does put her head straight down and other times she’ll play for 10 minutes and then go to sleep and other’s she’ll stay up later. It really depends on how she’s feeling and what she’s been doing in the day.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve given her an important bit of independence allowing her to choose her own sleep time and I’ve gained a less stressful and argumentative bedtime routine with my daughter!

Win Win.

Give bedtime not sleep time a go

If you want to have a go, here are the bullet points:

  1. Commit to giving this a proper go – at least two weeks. Remember you child has to learn how this works too, so do expect them to take a couple of weeks to work out how to identify for themselves that it’s time to sleep.
  2. Explain to your kids that you understand their point of view about bed time. This is surprisingly important and will get “buy-in” from them.
  3. Explain to your kids what you want and why you’re doing this. You listened to their point of view, they’ll respect yours too.
  4. Set expectations. No loud games, bouncing beds etc. but quiet playing is ok.
  5. Keep your normal “bedtime” routine. Bath, teeth, books, bedroom (or whatever works for you).
  6. Have patience and remember to check on them before you go to bed (they might need the light turning off and covering with the duvet – I haven’t yet had to pick my daughter off the floor where she’s fallen asleep mid-game).
  7. One tip can be to ask them that when they come and see you, it must be to tell you that they’re ready to sleep. I didn’t need this, but I hear that it can help with some kids.

And remember to come back here and tell me how you get on!

Why do kids lie and how to deal with lying children

Why do kids lie and how to deal with it?

Kids lie for similar reasons parents do: to be acknowledged communally, to get rank, to upset somebody, or because they dread the cost of telling the truth.

However, younger children don’t know the idea of truth and lies in the way that adults do.

Let’s enter the world of the kid to know why children can bend the truth so effortlessly.

Children lie all the time, so what can we do about a lying child? Continue reading Why do kids lie and how to deal with lying children

Telling Children’s Stories Using Storysacks

Telling Children’s Stories Using Story Sacks

In this article about story sacks (also known as “storysacks” without a space), we’ll look at what they are, why they help us tell stories, what is in one and how you can make your own!

I don’t think anyone viewing this website will disagree that one of the most important gifts children receive is a love of stories and reading.

Young children often find it easier to relate to stories and concepts if they have something concrete in front of them that help them understand what’s being discussed or told.  This is one reason picture books and books with plenty of simple illustration are so popular for this age group.

Use storysacks to help illustrate the themes and lessons in a children's story and to help get kids to engage in storytelling Continue reading Telling Children’s Stories Using Storysacks

Giving Children Confidence and Helping them Stand Up for Themselves

Confidence and self-assertion for kids

Many children suffer from low self-confidence. Symptoms can include excessive shyness, separation anxiety, as well as a negative attitude toward themselves and others.

Life is more challenging for a child that lacks confidence.

As parents, we are there to show them what confidence looks like and how they can be assertive without becoming aggressive.

It is important to give children the tools of confidence, because many behaviour problems come from a lack of self-esteem.

Sharing stories about confidence can help to improve behaviour and the way your child thinks

“If we tell children what they should or shouldn’t do, it doesn’t have as much impact on them as a story because a story builds in the experience. It’s a way of teaching them about life.”

Psychologist Richard Landis

Build a child's confidence and self assurance through storytelling, books and play Continue reading Giving Children Confidence and Helping them Stand Up for Themselves

Storytelling and children’s stories for Divorce and Separation

Storytelling and Difficult Subjects: Divorce and Separation

With more and more families breaking up with parents separating or divorcing, there is an ever increasing need to help our children understand what is going on and why, should they find themselves in the middle of one. Even if your marriage or relationship is as solid as a rock, you can bet that your child will have friends in their class whose parents’  are (or have) separating/divorcing. Children’s stories and storytelling are great tools for broaching this stressful subject even if only to explain what your child’s best  friend at school is going through.

Divorce and Separation are tough on children. Stories can help them understand and provide you with a conversation starting point

There are many concepts and subjects that can be particularly stressful and even scary to address with our kids, and some which are just a little more difficult to know how to broach with children – which can also be communicated through storytelling techniques.

Using Storytelling to Start Conversations

Some of the subjects covered in contemporary children’s stories are undoubtedly the same that parents of all eras have wrestled with. Others may be unique to contemporary culture. Either way, storytelling techniques can be used as a way to touch on the more difficult lessons children have to learn. They can give you a way to easily bring up the subject with kids and can also be a means of generating additional conversations with your kids on those hard subjects.

Don’t underestimate your kids’ ability to handle these harder subjects. It’s all in how you approach topics with them. They learn from you and the methods you use in communicating about difficult topics can strongly influence how your children respond to these kinds of subjects. Putting good children’s stories to work for you is one of the best ways to broach more uncomfortable subjects with your kids. These books have been specifically designed to help you deal with difficult topics in terms that children can easily understand. Continue reading Storytelling and children’s stories for Divorce and Separation

Using story time to help children with vocabulary and rhythm and rhyme

Using story time to help children with vocabulary and rhythm and rhyme

Children’s stories and books are fantastic at helping children with vocabulary, rhythm and rhyme. This article is has a few suggestions on those three themes. Do let us know if you have your own great stories that help your kids’ vocab.

Rhythm and Rhyme can easily be encouraged through stories as well as improving vocabulary Continue reading Using story time to help children with vocabulary and rhythm and rhyme

Emotional and Behavioural themes in children’s stories

Emotional and Behavioural themes in children’s stories

In this third article in this series, we look at some common emotional and behavioural themes that can be adressed through carefully chosen children’s stories and books.

Children with emotional or behavioural difficulties can benefit from stories Continue reading Emotional and Behavioural themes in children’s stories

Building a story time routine and how to make the most of a picture book at bedtime

Building a story time routine and how to make the most of a picture book at bedtime

In the last article, we introduced the importance of storytelling and reading books and briefly discussed the importance of the story time environment. In this the second in this series and examines to difficulty facing parents who don’t yet have a story time routine and the problems of simply getting started. We then go on to discuss some options for reading picture books with younger children and how they don’t just have to be for the non-readers in our families. Continue reading Building a story time routine and how to make the most of a picture book at bedtime

Bedtime stories and books for children

Setting the scene for story time with your kids

What is the best way to read with our family at home?  How can we instil a love of learning and of books?

What books should we read, and how should we present these to our children?

Many of us would love to help our children to become good readers, to help them to enter the fantastic world of books and literature.  We know what it has to offer, and that good literacy, which is the foundation for success at school and in life, starts in the home, at an early age.

This series of articles (of which this is the first) will introduce us to some of the key areas around storytelling and reading books for our children.

This first article introduces us to the idea of setting the right environment for story time and why we should do it at all. Continue reading Bedtime stories and books for children