Harnessing the power of story telling

Reading stories with your child is a great way to introduce them to new concepts, cultures and is essential for their development. It’s also a lovely way to spend quality time with your child whilst aiding their learning.

Stories that children hear help them to understand the world around them and enables them to come to terms with situations and ideas that they otherwise might struggle with.

Using fantasy worlds or stories about other children in similar situations, you can help your child to deal with whatever they’re facing. Whether this is explaining to them that they need to give up their dummy, or they need a way to interpret their emotions and feel less alone, storytelling has the power to support this.

It can even help parents come to terms with things as, often, they are the ones who need more time to adjust than their child. Children are generally very accepting and their brains are free of the judgement that can develop as we grow older. They say that “youth is wasted on the young”, but if you nurture your child’s brain and aid its development then you can implant beautiful things and ideas in your child’s head that will enable them to grow into empathetic and well-rounded individuals.

The most important thing to bear in mind, when considering introducing your child to stories, is to not force things on them. They will pick things up in their own time and they will develop their own tastes and interests over time that will dictate which stories become their favourites.

The author of Dumbleby Forest, Mark White, created his fantastical world when his two daughters really struggled to give up their dummies and became really distressed at the concept. By creating the characters of Dumbleby Jack and the Giggalots, Mark was able to introduce his daughters to the idea that their dummies were needed elsewhere – to help King and Queen Dumbleby keep the forest neat and tidy, and to have fun with all of their friends, who were just like them.

Mark wanted to be able to help other parents who may be at the end of their tether when trying to wean their child off their dummy. Storytelling takes a child into a world where they have to use their imagination to envisage the setting as the tale unfolds which is an entirely different experience to television shows, where everything is already there for them.

Stories also introduce them to new vocabulary and, as a parent, you can use it to initiate conversations with your child as they get older, asking them why they think a character did or didn’t do something. As a parent you can go beyond the story and bring the characters into the real world, asking your child how they think a character would have behaved in a certain situation and encouraging your child to think more carefully about their actions and choices.

Learning to concentrate is a big skill learnt via storytelling. Children must learn to listen to others and be patient. It’s a tough skill to learn, especially when you’re a child, full of energy and ideas that must be shared now!

Alex Charalambous from the literacy charity Springboard has some words of wisdom about reading to your child: “It’s really important that you look your child in the eye when telling a story. You will see the excitement building in their eyes, or even see confusion, which means that you may have to take the story slower.

“Feel free to use expressions and gestures. These are a really fantastic way of engaging your child. There is no one way to approach effective storytelling. I believe a mix of told, read, watched and acted stories is the best way to go to develop children’s imaginations.”

Alex isn’t alone in her opinions and scientists have discovered that those children who regularly listen to fictional stories find it easier to understand people and their emotions. This is essential for understanding the rules around social situations and conversations as a child gets older.

So – the power of storytelling is real and is a very exciting part of being a parent and strengthening your relationship with your child, as well as nurturing their relationship with the world around them.

Please feel free to leave any tips or comments below and we do hope you enjoy reading Dumbleby Forest with your child, and that they come to love all of the characters as much as we do.