In an era where children spend more and more time in front of televisions, computers and video-games, it is important not to forget how important stories are!
Hearing stories regularly allows pre-readers become familiar with narrative patterns, speech rhythms, and the flow of language.
Knowledge of story structure contributes to a child’s understanding of how the world functions, facilitating the ability to
– Predict actions and consequences
– Understand cause and effect
An understanding of narrative structure reduces the processing load and facilitates the use of prediction to aid comprehension and word recognition
The ability to comprehend and express stories is an integral part of life and academic success:
- It allows the child to sequence ideas or information
- It promotes reasoning skills such as inferential thinking and problem solving.
- It encourages the use of complex sentence structure and vocabulary and correct grammar.
- Reading stories helps with the development of listening skills and memory.
- Storytelling fuels the imagination and allows children to develop mental imagery.
- Stories help children adapt to new experiences
Narrative language skills in pre-school and early primary school are excellent predictors of literacy skills in later primary school.
How do children develop story telling/narrative skills?
Children as young as 20 months, have elements of storytelling in their play. However once verbal language develops it can be classified into developmental stages.
Stage 1: Heap Stories (2 years)
Heaps consist of labels and descriptions of events or actions. There is no central theme or organization. There is no real high point.
Stage 2: Sequence Stories (2 -3 years)
Sequences consist of labeling events about a central theme, character, or setting. There is no plot. The events could be listed in any order without changing the meaning.
Stage 3: Primitive Narratives (3 – 4 years)
Primitive narratives contain three of the story grammar elements: an initiating event, an action, and some result or consequence around a central theme. There is no real resolution or ending to the story.
Stage 4: Chain Narrative (4 – 5 years)
Chain narratives include four of the story grammar elements: an initiating event, a plan or character motivation, an attempt or action, and some result or consequence around a central theme. There is usually either cause-effect or temporal relationships, but the plot is weak and does not build on the motivations of the characters.
Stage 5: True Narrative (5 years +)
True narratives have a central theme, character, and plot. They include motivations behind the characters’ actions and include logical and/or temporally ordered sequences of events. Stories at this stage include five story grammar elements: an initiating event, a plan or character motivation, an attempt or action, a consequence, and a resolution to the problem.
Why do children like the same story?
The “Read it again,” phase that preschoolers go through is perfectly normal. Children love the sense of power that comes from knowing what’s on the printed page, and since they cannot read it for themselves, the next best thing is to memorize it. To do that they need to hear the story read over and over.
Toddlers love repetition because that the way they learn best. Hearing something many times helps them remember information for increasing periods of time. Hearing a story over and over helps children better understand the characters and the important events in the story. Children get an idea of story sequencing, as in beginning, middle and ending of a story. It also helps children understand some of the standard story “language” such as “once upon a time” or “happily ever after
Once your child has learned something, he’ll enjoy repetition because he can anticipate what comes next. After many readings of a familiar book, your child may even remember it well enough to add the endings to most of the sentences. This accomplishment means that he can participate more actively in story time. This is also why simple songs and nursery rhymes have such an impact on a toddler: Not only can your child practice his speaking skills and vocabulary by singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” nine times in a row, but he also has the satisfaction of feeling he’s added something concrete to his repertoire.
During the extraordinary early learning years, stories, songs and rhyme plant the seeds of sounds and language. So talk, sing and tell stories, and don’t give up on “reading again.”