Each week, I tell stories to ten different groups of children, ages18 months to 9 years old. Those in diapers hear the same stories as the older kids and though they may be taking away different lessons, they’re all benefitting in three specific ways.
- Listening to stories together is a community building experience. Stories compel attention. Everyone, no matter what their age, loves listening to stories. It is part of what makes us human. Even very young kids instinctively understand the story structure and can follow a plot. Being attracted to stories can bring a group of individuals together as a community. When people collectively listen to a story, they are sharing a powerful experience and feel included and united.
- Listening to stories creates feelings of empathy and self-confidence. Listeners so deeply identify with story characters, that parts of the brain in the listener are activated to mirror the actions of the fictional characters. When the hero/heroine of the story faces difficulties, the listener feels concerned. When the hero/heroine of the story overcomes great challenges, the listener feels inspired to overcome their own challenges.
- Listening to stories strengthens memory. Stories stick! Some researchers estimate that we remember information about 22 times more often if its part of a story, instead of than just plan information.
Each Monday morning when I step into the “Sweet Peas” room of 18 – 22 month olds, all 15 diaper clad kids scamper from the water table, sand station, book barn or cooking corner, where they were busily working, to sit on the story carpet for 30 minutes and simply listen to me telling (not with books) stories from long ago and far away. Similarly, each Tuesday afternoon, when I enter the “Avid Adventurers“ room of grade 3 and 4 students, they too willingly abandon their games and activities to join me on the story carpet to listen to exciting stories from long ago and far away.
In The New Yorker article by Adam Gopnik, he speaks of the science behind storytelling and why storytelling is such a powerful teaching tool. Here’s a link.
In a 2017 blog entry, Vanessa Boris addresses a few factors which make storytelling so effective in learning. Here’s a link.