by Alix Tonsgard
Stories, for many of us, are the way that our brains store, organize, and recall information, and tie content together. Storytelling is an excellent way to build language, literacy, and other important cognitive capacities. In fact, as early as two years of age, “children begin to tell stories as a way to organize their experiences, hold on to their memories, and understand their culture” (Many Paths to Literacy: Language, Literature, and Learning in the Primary Classroom by Rebecca Novick).
Very young children enjoy hearing and participating in stories related to everyday events. You can support your child’s growing storytelling abilities through everyday conversations about past and future events. Try turning an experience your child had into a story and then encourage them to tell you a story. Some children will be very eager and confident in their storytelling abilities while others will need some prompting.
The challenge for you will be providing the right amount of support for your child without taking away their ownership of the story. If your child is having a hard time starting, you can try using visual prompts such as photographs or pictures from magazines. You can ask, “Who is going to be in your story?” or “Where does your story start?” If the story seems to be stalling, try asking “Does anything else happen?” or “what did x [a character] do then?” or “How did you feel when that happened?” Just remember, this is your child’s story. The questions are intended simply to stimulate the thought process, so the fewer the better.
There is a good chance, especially with younger children, that their stories will be only a few lines, or words even, but they are still their stories; and if you keep encouraging them to share their stories with, you will eventually see the stories grow longer and become increasingly complex. So have fun and let us know how it goes!
Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.