Storytelling - a magic part of childhood
My children will not go to bed at night without having a bedtime story, it doesn’t matter how late it is and what we have done in the day, they still insist on being told a story. Storytelling was an integral part of my childhood and I like nothing better, than snuggling up in bed with the kids and reading them a gripping tale. At the moment, my eight year-old is enthralled by The BFG and my three year-olds love any thing by Julia Donaldson – The Snail and the Whale and The Gruffalo being firm favourites. I can’t wait to introduce my eldest to The Hobbit, Little Women and loads of other books, I loved as a child and that I still love now.
A recent survey by a broadband provider, released to coincide with National Storytelling week, says that 57% of respondents believe bedtime stories are dying out, while 48% of parents admitted they don’t have time to read to their kids. If you have time to check your Blackberry, send an email or update your Facebook status, surely, you have time to read to your children. Even five minutes is better than nothing. All kids love it and it is a great way to connect with your children, if you have been at work all day. If you can’t do it in the evening, because you get in too late, what about five minutes in the morning when they wake up?
In some parts of America, storytelling has had a revival and is helping children with their literacy. Volunteers lead ‘storytelling clubs’ for kids. Clubs like these, encourage kids to read more and enhance their literacy skills. It also helps develop creative thinking: a great idea, in an age when children are more likely to pick up the control for the Wii or PS3, than a book.
So it is great to hear about The Ministry of Stories project, started in Hoxton, in London. It has been set up to inspire children to write and enjoy stories. This initiative is inspired by the successful 826 writing programme in America, the brainchild of novelist, David Eggers.
The Guardian article about the project points out that children and particularly boys, need help with their literacy: while 80% of girls achieved level 4 in writing at Key Stage 2, only 64% of boys did.
I hope the idea takes off, children and adults need to be reminded that writing and telling stories is fun. Sometimes the constraints of the curriculum in our schools, make writing an onerous task. According to the article, Eggers set up the 826 project, having realised that children don’t get one on one help with English in school. It did so well, that seven more centres were set up across the US and more than 22,000 students have been encouraged to write through the programme.
The plan is for the project to spread outside London, but they need to secure funding for the Ministry of Stories for the next three years. They rely heavily on the support of volunteers and some high profile authors are involved, including Nicky Hornby, Zadie Smith and the former children's laureate, Michael Morpurgo.
Try and think of ways to get your kids excited about stories. One idea is when you are on a long car journey with the kids, turn off the radio, any electronic games or MP3 players and get everyone involved in telling a story. Take turns in telling the story, elaborating on the characters and the setting so everyone gets involved in creating the plot. If that runs out of steam, how about listening to an audio book in the car together? You can all talk about what might happen next.
Or why not get them to make their own books, on the computer or by hand? The BBC has loads of great story telling games and resources on the CBeebies section of the site. You can also find some on the BBC Class Clips too.
My parents taught me to love books. I still get excited walking into a bookshop or library. I hope that I will pass that love on to my children - books have inspired me and made me the person I am today. I cannot imagine a life without them.
Claire Winter is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.
Find out more about Chris Evans’ short story competition for 13 year-olds and under, on Radio 2.