Storytelling is a great way to influence and inspire children. It’s a way for children to learn and connect with people and ideas. Stories teach children about other cultures and history. They can also help to build familiarity and a connection with the person telling the story and allows children to ‘enter a new world’ through the story. Stories also allow children to understand more complex information in an engaging and fun way.
There are three types of learners.
Visual learners – most children are visual learners and learn best through diagrams, illustrations and videos
Auditory learners – children who learn best through discussions
Kinaesthetic learners – children who learn best through doing
Storytelling caters to all three of these types of learners. Visual learners will enjoy the illustrations, Kinaesthetic learners connect with the feelings that the story evokes and Auditory learners will connect with the words in the story.
Stories are easy for children to remember, more than facts and numbers. That’s why repetition and regular reading to children is important. Reading diverse books to children is also important, as they can also help to change current attitudes and beliefs. Places like Story Space in Tate Britain are great. Story Space is a workshop for families of all ages to come together, imagine, and explore the world of storytelling at the Tate Britain. You can discover a library of books by Black authors, Indigenous authors and authors of colour from around the world.
We recently did a Storytelling of two of our books. Zara’s Caribbean Adventure and Emmanuel’s African Adventure. It was lots of fun connecting with both parents and children. In Zara’s Caribbean Adventure she attends Carnival, so I brought one of my headpieces and in Emmanuel’s African Adventure, Grandmama goes to the market, so I brought out a basket and got the kids to name the fruit and veg common in Africa. It was a great way to expose the children to the African and Caribbean culture.
Babies and young children are sponges that soak up everything around them. So naturally when books are read to them, they take in all the language and words they hear. Reading to children boosts their brain development in a big way, but not only that it acts as bonding time for you and your child. Therefore we recommend some story time EVERY day.
So what are the benefits of reading to your child?
Brain and language development
Even the youngest children benefit from hearing their parents read to them. Studies have shown that babies who are regularly read to, get higher scores in language skills, promotes higher IQs and improves brain development, such as problem-solving skills.
Provides bonding time
Reading provides a great opportunity for you to bond with your child. It also acts as a little wind down time during a busy and hectic day.
Improves your child’s listening skills
listening is a skill children MUST gain before they can read themselves. So naturally hearing a story read out loud to them involves them having to comprehend and listen.
Helps your child have a larger vocabulary
Experts say reading books to children helps expand the number and variety of words they use. If you think about it, books you read often have words you may not otherwise use in your everyday speech. While reading you may not realise but you will often use more specific names for things such as animals and places etc as well as use more adjectives (descriptive words).
Improved attention span
Reading to children helps them develop key concentration skills as they have to sit still and listen in order to comprehend what is being read to them. This will also help improve their attention span.
Helps them learn life lessons
Books help to provide an opportunity to talk about real-life situations in an age-appropriate way. They can also reflect what happens in real-world situations, reading books on specific subjects may help children deal with something new that may feel scary, such as Coronavirus, racism, moving home and going to the Doctors etc
Sparks creativity in your child
Children have vivid imagination, so books help to feed their creativity by opening up a new and often magical world to them. Creativity is important for developing your child’s interests, ideas, as well as helping with their emotional health.
It’s beneficial to read to your child from birth. Talk to your baby as you look at the picture books you’re reading, describing what you can see. For example, point to a picture and ask “What’s this?” or declare “That’s a Monkey!” to get your child engaging with the book. Keep repeating what you can see, as repetition helps things and words to stick in your child’s mind. We have two books suitable for children, shop books here (or click on the image below).
Starting regular reading from birth will help your child become the little scholar they can be, happy reading!
The current state of diversity in children’s books is disappointing to say the least. As a black parent, I have to work harder to find books for my toddler daughter which contain main characters that look like us. On deep reflection, looking back to my earlier years as a child, my favourite children’s books were so not diverse! Far from it. The lead characters were always white, or cuddly animals. Whilst there is nothing wrong with writers, illustrators and publishers creating characters and content inspired by their own world view, it made me think of the impact this had on me, or could have had. For example, subconsciously reinforcing that the world is dominated by one particular racial group. This is a problem for our young people.
So why’s all of this important?
Children are like sponges. They absorb just about everything you beam toward them: data, literature, speech; our actions and everyday experiences. They soak it all up. Being able to identify and recognise yourself in the material you consume, seeing yourself depicted as a main character, is something which can draw the reader further in, exposing children to the courage, achievements and success of the main protagonist. This is particularly important for young people who are beginning to form their own world views: their identity, their place in society, aspirations and goals.
In the United Kingdom, between 2017-2019 only 5% of children’s books had an ethnic minority main character.* This is startling disparity, especially as we know that the collective human experience is not built on the story of any single racial group. Yet when it comes to children’s literature, parents searching for diverse books have to go the extra mile.
For those children from ethnic minorities groups, the absence of seeing themselves represented as main characters, sends a stark message; that by society failing to represent you, you don’t matter. This is clearly not acceptable.
So what can be done?
Well, acknowledgment of a problem is a good place to start. But statistics, reports and endless conversations about the under-represented, require action to begin tackling the disparities.
So what’s to stop black people writing their own books?
The answer to this question is debatable and runs deep. But we can all accept that differing circumstances, opportunity and representation within the publishing industry are challenges yet to be overcome by people from ethnic minorities groups.
We believe that the under-represented, as hard as it may be, must begin to create content and showcase our identities within the literature presented to our children. This is a problem for the whole of society to address, but a need for black writers, illustrators, educators and entrepreneurs to step forward is urgently required. After all, we are uniquely (but not exclusively) placed to tell our stories from our point of view.
Our mission at Little Scholars Playground is to begin to tackle the imbalances described, one book at a time.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Comment below, let’s start a conversation.