Storytelling is fading from popularity in today’s society, but throughout history it has been a valuable tool for imparting joy, wisdom, and history from one generation to the next. In “the olden days” the way parents got their children to settle down and go to bed was to sit with them in a darkened room and tell them a story. Not read them a story, mind you – actually tell it to them. Reading a story from a book is enjoyable and helps stimulate children’s imaginations by painting a picture for them to see in their minds. But making up or memorizing a story to tell to your children is a dwindling art. Being creative and telling a story can not only help your child to drift off to a restful night of slumber and fanciful dreams, seeing your creativity in action will help your child develop his or her own creativity and imagination.
If you don’t have much of a creative imagination, don’t fear – the story need not be your own in order for you to tell it well. Children love a good story told directly to them instead of read to them, so you can prepare yourself for telling a story by reading a story first and committing it to memory well enough to re-tell it to your child. If you do decide to venture forward and create your own story, you should also commit the storyline to memory before telling it to your child. Go over every detail in your mind so you won’t stumble or have to take a break in the middle of the story to try to remember what comes next.
When you sit down to tell the story to your child, be sure to give it a personality of its own. Use expressive gestures and facial expressions, be dramatic or comedic in your presentation, and use emotion and personality when speaking the lines of a character in the story. Whenever you can, involve your child in the story. Give your child a line to say, or ask him a question about what a character should do or say, or encourage him to provide dialogue, sing a song, or make a gesture that is important to the development of the plot. Involve your child in telling the story.
The choice of stories to tell is limitless. If you remember a book from your own childhood that meant a lot or made a solid impression on you, that’s a great place to start. Your own excitement and enthusiasm for the story will be evident to your child as you tell the story, which will make your storytelling even more enjoyable and memorable. Stories like Peter Rabbit, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and Rapunzel may be stories written long ago, but their appeal is timeless. If a story has a repeated phrase throughout – such as “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,” then encourage your child to join you in chanting the phrase, or let him say it alone.
Once you have become the master storyteller in your household, then you can encourage your child to make up his own stories and tell them to you. And maybe by doing so you can keep alive the art of storytelling for generations to come.