The impact that storytelling has on children is incredible and manifold. Sample these — improves cognitive, language and imagery-building skills, creates an attentive listener, enhances memory, expands interest…

At the recent Hyderabad Literary Festival, I had the opportunity to attend an interesting session on storytelling by Deepa Kiran.

Deepa is an education consultant and a professional storyteller who works with children and teachers. With her gregarious personality and excellent narration, she immediately struck a chord with the audience — both young and old. Her story ‘spoke’ to the audience in its own way.

Speaking gets better

Listening to Deepa, a long-forgotten memory surfaced. Of an elderly lady sitting on an arm-chair under a mulberry tree, surrounded by five- to eight-year-olds. It was Armezinda, the mother of the principal of Faust Kindergarten School, who would tell stories to children. I remember my children coming home and making use of the new words they had learnt that day. Listening to stories has an impact on language and vocabulary as children remember stories for a long time and the words they learn also remain with them. The vocabulary thus learned contributes to better writing and speaking.

Storytelling, I believe is an art. Some are born with this inherent talent and others learn it. Telling stories can be fun and educative for both the teachers and the students if the scenes are brought out in the classroom as lively as possible. Every story has a message and brings out the culture of the time in which it happened.

Though storytelling has implications for learning, it is also a means of entertainment for the student. One must bear in mind that reading out a story is not the same as telling a story with no props. When you read from a book, the page is often between you and the students and it may be distracting for those who have attention problems. But when you tell a story without props, you are drawing them into the story until they drift into an alternate state and become part of the story. Then it’s your emotion / expression and the delivery that make it exciting for them. When you allow the children to contribute or ask them to repeat the story, you have their undivided attention.

There is no denying that storytelling plays a very important role in the lives of our children. In my teaching experience, I have come across children who, for various reasons, do not speak, but can respond when they are told a story. They respond by drawing the scenes they have visualised while listening to the story. Storytelling improves cognition, provides imagery-building skills, creates an attentive listener, enhances memory, expands interest into new areas, teaches language, and above all, centres the attention of the class and this process of focussing spills over into the other educational activities. It stirs interest in reading, thus opening a door to the world of knowledge, fantasy and excitement.

With a little help, most teachers could become good story tellers and use it as a tool for better communication.

The writer is a Remedial Educator