Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years

Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years
Mary Medlicott
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

That Mary Medicott, herself a professional storyteller and trainer, is passionate about the power of story is evident in this her latest book.
Like myself she believes that story time is for young children THE most important learning experience we offer them and should be part and parcel of their everyday experience. For one little girl I saw last Sunday it certainly was. I sat listening to a dad sharing a picture book (Percy the Park Keeper -The Treasure Hunt) with his young daughter outside a cafe. The experience was magical, not only for the two of them but also for the early years teacher part of me as I watched her slip from his lap saying “I’m going to ask that big rabbit if he knows where my bead is.” She walked over to talk to a huge decorated hare statue at the doorway, whispered something and went back to her dad who then continued with the story.

Drawing on her thirty plus years of experience she offers advice and support for anyone who wants to help youngsters from 2 to 5 further their imaginative development, enhance their language growth, listening skills, emergent literacy and reading achievement, and encourage them to create mental pictures, all of which are furthered by the sharing of stories either from a book or through a telling.

Having stated her case for the importance of story, she discusses the vast variety of stories available including personal stories, both children’s and adults’, picture book stories, nursery rhymes and chants, and traditional tales from a wide range of cultures.

For those who are less confident about themselves as storytellers, Mary talks in detail about various aspects of preparation for a story session, all of which help to make the whole experience enjoyable for both audience and story sharer whether they choose to tell the story or read a picture book. The importance of treating children as collaborators or even co-creators in the story process is discussed: ‘Children like being asked to think,’ says the author – yes they most certainly do.

There is a chapter on ‘props’ and their use; these can help enhance audience involvement both during the story and after in discussion.

Teamwork and involving all staff to their mutual benefit is another aspect covered, as is what staff members other than the storyteller are doing during the story sharing session; all adults should be involved and sitting among the children.

Children’s responses is the subject of another chapter be that through discussion, artistic interpretation and/ or their own scribed words.

Some of my favourite writers on young children and story, including Eileen Colwell, Betty Rosen, Vivian Gussin Paley and Tricia Lee, are referenced and key elements of their practice discussed, the latter two in the final ‘Consolidating’ chapter.

There are also two appendices, the first providing versions of stories, rhymes and action chants referred to in the main narrative; these can be used directly or in the case of the stories, adapted by the particular teller. The second offers a selection of tried and tested picture books and traditional tales – a good starting point for those new to the whole business of story sharing.

I’d strongly recommend this book (love Rosamund Bird’s cover images) for all early years educators and those who train them; in fact anyone who wants to draw all young children into those magical worlds of ‘Once upon a time’, worlds that offer as yet unimagined experiences that have the power to enthral, transport and inspire.

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